Obviously when starting out in my horror movie watching career, I immediately became infatuated with French horror. I hit all the main stops...Martyrs, Inside, Frontiers, Them--and I was ready to round out the set by watching the infamous High Tension. I wasn't that pumped about it..mostly because I had mistakenly watched a Youtube review of it where the reviewer let spill the ending within the first minute or two of the review. Although I thought it an insanely overdone plot twist, I knew I could not ignore watching the film whether I wanted to or not.
Fast forward to one of those lonely and exciting nights of movie watching. Glass of milk, giant cupcake, cats, slipper socks you name it--I was ready to finally watch High Tension so people could stop bothering me about it. And then, a funny thing happened. I got to the part where Alexia's father's head pops off and I turned it off. Not because it was gory but because it annoyed me. Knowing the eventual turn of events made me incredibly sour and dubious of the movie's overall charm. What was the point I thought? And I didn't try again for 3 years.
Recently, I've been getting a few emails from readers who are kind enough to give me movie recommendations. Almost all of them suggest High Tension and every single time someone does I get all guilty in that "What movie? Oh...yeah I LOVE that movie.....that everyone totally loves a lot but I haven't seen" kind of way. I felt like I had seen it because I knew the route things were going so in my mind I pretended that I had seen it and just never talked about it.
I'm not sure what happened to me between then and now but tonight when I finally sat and watched the movie the whole way through--I became extremely intrigued. Instead of being bothered by the eventual ending I became interested in how we got to that ending. I wanted to delve into the why instead of the how the fuck is that possible? And it totally worked.
I'm going to start spouting off stuff about the ending, so unless you want things ruined you can leave now!
People's number one complaint about High Tension is that it doesn't make sense. How on earth can Marie be driving an old rape truck and a flashy sports car at the same time? How can she hit herself in the face with a spiky mallet thing? Why does she never die?
I've said it before, and I'll say it again---as movie watchers we need to be worrying a lot less about the how and more about the why. Why did the filmmaker choose to present the story in this fashion? What purpose does this method of storytelling serve? Okay, I feel like a college professor now but whatever. I'm serious. Turn off the logic button and just think about the bigger picture.
The old rapey guy in the rape truck who strongly resembles Quint is not Marie--but a manifestation of her sexual frustrations and anger. He symbolizes that part of her she so greatly detests. The part of her that thrives on emotions and gets angry at the world because the girl of her dreams is not a lesbian. He also symbolizes a terrorist because he kills a dog for no reason. Oh and a child...I guess.
Just stop taking things so literally audience. Jeez. Yes, the film is great also in that gooey blood and gore way but I think the main drive behind it at least for me, is this more psychological aspect. Has Marie always been a nut job? What is it about Alexia's family that suddenly pushes her over the edge? All these questions and more will visit my head tonight as I drift off into dream world. A magical land where Morgan Freeman buys me sandwiches and narrates my life to make it sound like I have a purpose other than eating sandwiches.
I'm not crazy about the other aspects of the story...it's kind of redundant. Even though it's only an hour and a half long it kind of feels like two hours. There's a lot of hiding and stupid decisions happening. It's not my favorite French film obviously but it does get a lot of points for making me think.
And also now I can join people in actual conversations and say things that are smart and maybe even right. I am also wondering....if it benefits one to know the ending before watching it? Hmmm no.... no I think definitely not. Perhaps it's best to watch it blind the first time--do some jumping jacks to get out the anger and frustration and then watch it again knowing the ending. I think you'll come away with some interesting conclusions and diagnoses on your own. Plus, the killer is totally Quint. Who's kidding who here?