Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews - By Fans For Fans



Directed by Alexandre Aja.
Starring Cecile de France, Maiwen, Philippe Nahon, Ooan Pellea.
France 2003 95 mins Certificate: 18

Released by Second Sight Films on Limited Edition Dual 4K UHD / Blu-ray Box Set & Standard editions on 4K UHD & Blu-ray on 22nd January 2024.


Released as HAUTE TENSION in its native France in summer 2003, Alexandra Aja’s calling card modern slasher enjoyed huge festival buzz en route to its U.K. release as SWITCHBLADE ROMANCE and (censored) U.S. bow as HIGH TENSION. This intense, stripped-down cat-and-mouse game between brutish, relentless killer Philippe Nahon and repressed, resilient Cecile de France heralded a cycle of “extreme”, ultra-violent French horror films that would peak with the despairing MARTYRS in 2008. These, of course, ran parallel to America’s own post-9/11 hard-R splatter movie trend, itself including Aja’s Hollywood debut – a savage reworking of THE HILLS HAVE EYES.


Short on dialogue and set to the persistent drone of the late Francois Eudes’ atonal score, it remains a gleefully gruesome ride. Highlighted by a thrilling chase scene set to Muse’s mesmeric “New Born”, it climaxes with a much-debated, then-fashionable plot twist that, depending on your viewpoint, either trashes everything that has gone before or delivers a bold riff on slasher expectations a la SLEEPAWAY CAMP.


In one of four new interviews for this edition, Aja laments the flaws of its original, murky DVD release while celebrating the opportunity to return to the negative and get the colour timing right for this world-premiere 4k restoration. It unfolds mostly at night, much of it in the dark recesses of the farmhouse paying host to the initial, harrowing home invasion sequence – and this crisp, atmospheric HDR10+ transfer is the best HAUTE TENSION has looked on home video.


Aja provides insight into the many influences (from Dean Koontz to THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE and MANIAC) on the film’s script / style, addresses the controversial ending and talks about its original reception in France prior to the festival triumphs. Screenwriter Gregory Levasseur discusses France’s previously sparse horror output while citing Gaspar Noe as a key reference point – Nahon having been cast soon after his terrifying turn in I STAND ALONE. Cinematographer Maxime Alexandre chats about the lack of money, the Argento influence and abstract lighting designed to mesh with the final revelation. Legendary make-up effects artist Giannetto De Rossi (famed for his gory Fulci set pieces) is great fun as he highlights mistakes and guides us through the shocking throat-slashing sequence.


The jam-packed disc also accommodates Alexandra Heller-Nicholas’ “Only the Brave”, a short study of how High Tension adopts and subverts the established “Final Girl” figure, and a new commentary by Dr. Lindsay Hallam providing plenty of historical context. Over an hour of archival features includes plentiful behind-the-scenes footage and older interviews with De France, Maiwenn and Nahon. Handsomely presented with new artwork by James Neal, the set also contains six art cards and a 70-page book of new essays by Anna Bogutskaya, Prince Jackson, Stacie Ponder and Zoe Rose Smith.


Steven West.


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Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews
By Fans For Fans