22 June 2005 | RainWeirdo
Hearts will bleed...
...and so will faces, slashed throats, dismembered hands, decapitated heads, backs, arms, feet, stomachs, chests... In fact, just about everything that can bleed does bleed in this movie, and does so copiously.
High Tension, aka Switchblade Romance (much better title) is the best horror movie I've seen come out in theaters in years. After so many times hearing "this is the movie horror fans have been waiting for" and then being horribly disappointed by Cabin Fever, The Ring, Malevolence, Darkness, The Grudge, and every single other one, I am throwing my full weight behind this one. Switchblade Romance is the movie real horror movie fans have been waiting for. It's a bloody, merciless, no-humor and no-holds-barred homage to the classic slasher pics of the 70s, and yet it surpasses almost every movie it draws its inspiration from. We get an unstoppable but definitely human killer, far more interesting than, say, Jason or what Michael Myers has now become because of his obviously being human and because he makes some undeniably smart decisions and operates in a continuously logical, inescapable way. The arsenal on display is impressive, as it should be in any decent slasher movie. We get the basic straight razor, the butcher knife, shotgun, axe, and, in an incredible and deliciously violent nod to Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the power buzzsaw.
Every aspect of this film is in place. The plot is simple and straightforward, the acting, even dubbed, is interesting (and despite complaints of why only parts of it were dubbed, if you watch closely and pay attention to who speaks French and who is dubbed, it actually makes perfect sense and fits with the movie), the cinematography is strangely artistic, almost gialli-like, the bloodletting stylish and gruesome, the sound design incredible, the tension almost unwavering. The initial horror set piece, the arrival of the killer and the slaughter in the house, is bound to become a well-remembered and oft referenced classic scene of horror. The sheer brutality and stark reality of it ranks it up there, in my mind, with the gut wrenching finale of "Odishon." A quick word on the performances. There's minimal dialogue, but what there is is at least two steps up from most horror films. Its meant to build character, whereas most slasher flick dialogue is there just to drive the plot. Here, we care about the characters, even those who don't get much of a chance to talk, because the situation is so much more real than your average flick and so is the acting. Cecile de France's physical performance is stunning, the fear on her face, the tension in every limb, the breath rate, the pain, everything, and the sheer madness that Maiwenn's character endures is perfectly conveyed by the utter despair she is able to convey even with a gag in her mouth most of the time.
An, of course, a quick word on the ending. Quit complaining! The ending of this movie is great, not only does it take an extremely well made but somewhat shallow gore pic to a whole new level with some interesting things to say about... well, I won't say on account of not spoiling it, but yes, it actually does make sense if you've watched the movie carefully and have enough intellect to think about it on your own rather than just taking at face value what you've seen. I halfway wonder if the twist wasn't in part a snobby French joke Aja decided to play to see if we lulled, summer blockbuster-fed Americans could figure it out and realize that everything works without being spoon-fed exactly how it works.
8 / 10 - which makes it twice as good as the next best horror movie to come out in theatres in a decade. The only thing that keeps it from attaining a perfect 10 is that, although the tension is cranked up high for most of it and the scares are a thing that will haunt you more after walking out of the movie than when you're watching, the suspense does kind of flag unexpectedly in a few key places. Still, given the other 80% of the movie is extremely suspenseful and effectively brutal, this is a small flaw. If you like horror movies, GO SEE IT.