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Arts & Culture

Haute Tension/High Tension

Marie (Cecil DeFrance recently seen more freshly scrubbed in Around the World in 80 Days ) and Alex (Maiwenn) are visiting Alex's family at their renovated farmhouse. Marie seems to harbor more than just friendly affection for her friend, but as of yet she has made no serious display of emotion. All is fine at the house until a stranger knocks on the door late at night and proceeds to slice and dice the entire family, including Alex's little brother. The killer spares Alex, whom he ties up in chains for some later grisly fate, while Marie manages to escape notice completely. When the killer prepares to drive off with Alex, Marie sneaks onto the truck to try and free her friend. As the killer hits the road, the film takes some surprising twists and turns.

Aja's unflinching willingness to show gore may have helped him land a gig directing the remake of the classic Wes Craven seventies slasher film The Hill Have Eyes . In High Tension , Aja displays a workman-like approach to and grim enthusiasm for the violence. He shows gruesome details and follows a predictable paint by bloody numbers formula in knocking victims off. His big twist starts to spin the film in an interesting direction but it ends up more a gimmick than a thought through idea. When we do discover who the killer is, some earlier scenes play differently upon reflection and explain how Marie managed to avoid detection when the killer first arrives at the house. But the twist is a fairly major one that also reveals how manipulative the filmmaker has been and how much he has had to cheat to get to his final resolution. So he fills holes in one area only to create new gapping holes in another. But his film displays a certain verve and energy for the genre that is exciting, and Aja does approach his female characters with a freshness that reinvigorates genre conventions.

Haute Tension/High Tension (rated R for violence, sexual content and language) offers gore for horror fans but not much in the way of creativity or true scares. But then horror fans do have something to look forward to this summerthe return of George Romero with Land of the Dead. So if you need a horror fix, Land of the Dead might be more satisfying.