In the 1970s, moviegoers reveled in a new sub-genre of horror films that were low on plot, required only the most basic acting skills, and called upon dumb teenagers to die onscreen deaths in a multitude of strange and horrific ways. The slasher movie was born, and with it came classic features such as THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, HALLOWEEN, and FRIDAY THE 13TH. The genre enjoyed a postmodern revival in the late-20th and early-21st centuries with films such as SCREAM and SCARY MOVIE, but French director Alexandre Aja (FURIA) hauls the slasher film back to its roots with his gore-addled romp HIGH TENSION.
Like the most effective additions to the genre, HIGH TENSION's plot is elemental, and simply serves as a springboard for Aja to deliver lashes of blood and guts. Alex (Maiwenn Le Besco) and Marie (Cecile De France) are two teenage girls who head out to Alex's family home in the French countryside. Once there, their idyllic and peaceful time is abruptly disturbed when a maniac breaks into the house and butchers Alex's parents. The shadowy figure captures Alex and throws her into his van, while Marie escapes and sneaks into the vehicle in order to save her friend. By affording very little screen time to the unhinged protagonist who attacks the family, Aja creates a genuinely scary villain, recalling Wes Craven's treatment of Freddy Krueger in the first NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET movie. While the violence is explicit and the girls fit perfectly into their roles, Aja prevents the film from lapsing into parody by packing a mind-bending twist into the plot. A valuable and fun addition to the canon of slasher films, HIGH TENSION shows there is still plenty of life left in the genre.