on 21 January 2015
The are no spoilers in this review. This is a film that one wouldn’t want to know too much about – not from being forewarned about any shock horror scenes but because it might spoil the whole basis of the film for anyone watching it.
Having seen Maïwenn in Polisse (which she also directed), Polisse being a film that I found very memorable indeed, and having seen Cécile de France in numerous films that I have also enjoyed, then when I came across Swithchblade Romance with both actresses in, I thought it should be worth a look.
The Horror film genre is not a genre I would normally watch, but this low budget (low budget, as mentioned in the extras) film was quite a surprise for me.
Yes there plenty of blood-and-guts as might be expected but there is much more to it than that. It is an intelligent, well made film. The directing (from Alexandre Aja), the acting, the lighting and especially the editing of Switchblade romance have all been performed excellently.
As I said Horror is not a genre I would normally watch and aficionados may well look at this film with a different critical viewpoint but for me this was a really good film.
With the DVD you get:
Switchblade Romance (1 hour 27 minutes)
Cast Interviews with Phillipe Nahon (5 minutes), Cécile de France (22 minutes), Maïwenn (5 minutes).
Special Effects Makeup with Gianetto de Rossi
Play film with commentary by Alexandre Aja and Cécile de France
Making Of feature (28 minutes)
The film and the extra features have English Subtitles. The film with commentary has English Subtitles (for the film) and Spoken English for the commentaries.
This 2003 French horror [aka: High Tension, or Haute Tension in France] is subtitled in English. It tells the story of Alex who’s returning to her families country home and taking her friend Marie with her. As they settle down for the night the farmhouse and occupants come under attack from a maniac.
The opening scenes create an upbeat holiday breakaway feel with its loud sing along Europop music but there’s always a dark undertone that keeps you on edge and you’re ‘jumpy’ before the horror hits. The central character makes some naff decisions but it soon becomes a survival and rescue attempt. Great atmospher, good music and full of tension, this will keep you riveted to the screen with superb acting.
The single disc offers play, chapters, extra features [cast interviews, special effects, film with commentary, making of, trailer, English dub trailer, other releases] and audio set up [5.1, 2.0, directors commentary, resume]. Undoubtedly an 18 rating with the bad language, obligatory shower scene and the hack and slash is edge of the seat stuff. A brilliant twist and lots of false leads make this an undeniable *****, I’d give this 6 if I could.
on 29 June 2016
Anyone raised on mystery thrillers will not be surprised. Much like SIXTH SENSE, these sort of twists jolt the senses, but are simply not as stunning as they may have wanted to be. Revelations pass with a whimper.
Not to say ROMANCE isn't a terrific scare fest, with exceptionally believable performances, true to life visuals, and very convincing gore. The tension is surmountable! But it all harkens back to HALLOWEEN, NIGHTMARE ON ELM, and more recently, IDENTITY. (Oooh, now there's a good one!)
So, while an enjoyable ride you should definitely consider taking… yeah, well… enough. Go on and see it.
on 25 April 2013
This, for me, was a great and really involving horror movie. The tension and suspense Alexander Aja conjures up remains constant and sometimes unbearable throughout the movie. No wonder it is called Haute Tension (High Tension) in French.
Ultra-gruesome as well with gore sprinkled liberally throughout. It is also the first time in a movie where they actually show a victim being cut up by a chainsaw. (No, the scene where Leatherface accidentally nicks his leg in TTCM doesn't count)
Many people derided the twist near the ending, a twist which changes the whole movie and makes a second viewing totally different.
I quite liked it, although I agree that it is a bit OTT and unbelievable. But so what? It's only a movie and it was totally out-of-left-field for me. The whole movie reminded me of Dario Argento's stuff for some reason. The initial home invasion is creepy and scary as hell.
I wonder how many people know that this movie is based on one of Dean Koontz's books, Intensity?
on 3 August 2005
Director Alexandre Aja's "Haute Tension" (released in the USA as "High Tension", but incongruously renamed "Switchblade Romance" for UK audiences) is a gory, visceral, celebration of the American slasher movie and horror tradition ... with more than a touch of Gallic sophistication and style thrown in, and the odd reverential nod paid to Godard and the French new wave of the 50's/60's.
Based on Dean Koontz's "Intensity" - itself made into a tame film in the US - Aja gives us a very claustrophobic version and a controversial denouement. While the slaughter takes place in a large mansion in Koontz's original, here we have a smaller farmhouse with creakier stairs and floorboards. While the killer escapes in a huge mobile home in the novel, here the butcher drives a battered old camion ... a simple blue van man. There is nowhere for our heroine to hide! And, while the profession of Koontz's killer has its own significance, when Aja's murderer is finally unmasked ... it creates a decided disturbance in the force.
The story? Marie (Cecile de France) and Alex (Maiwenn) visit Alex's parents' in their isolated farmhouse for some intense study prior to their university exams. They are grateful to be away from the pressures of academe and to have the chance of relaxed concentration. But their plans are about to be chopped, slashed, and cut short by the arrival of blue van man, who will set about butchering the entire household before carrying off Alex, bound and gagged, in his van. Marie survives the initial onslaught and has to devise a means of both staying alive and rescuing her friend.
The whole film is a homage to American horror. The killer is a reference (and reverence) to the leather-faced, chainsaw wielding creature from "Texas Chainsaw Massacre", and the scene at the petrol station reminds you of the same film. There are touches of Wes Craven's "Last House on the Left" as the young women head towards inevitable horror and extinction. Use is made of a cornfield, not so much Hitchcock as Stephen King. But, while the killer shuffles around in a boilersuit, reminiscent of "Halloween" and "Friday 13th", Aja avoids the flashing breasts and glitzy girlies offered up by much recent Hollywood 'horror' to buy in the young boys. This is gimme that old time horror without the teen time sexism!
As such, as a reprise of Koontz and slasher horror, it is both reverential and self-parodying. The blood spouting and visceral sound effects of ribs grating and cracking may not be for the squeamish, but it is for those with a sense of humour. The echoes of Wes Craven's ironic advertising blurb, "remember, this is only a movie", are delivered with existentialist aplomb. There is just a hint of Godard, the constant references to material outside the film, the struggle to interpret what we have seen and heard, to make sense of inexplicable and partial images, and finally, the killer caught on film, unselfconsciously posing for the camera - "look at me, I'm in a movie".
There are axes, razors, knives, whirling saw blades, spurting blood, gaping bodies and throats, gurglings and splinterings. It's not for the squeamish. This is old fashioned bloodfest. It is neatly directed. The performance by Cecile de France is a standout. But Philippe Nahon is a coolly horrific villain whose reality slowly and convincingly degenerates into a near comic book caricature. Filmed in six weeks, this is a comparatively low budget film. Less attention is paid to the special effects than to the creation of tension and emotional distortion.
The bloodletting is highly visual, and has attracted criticism in the States. It is perhaps more explicit than Hollywood tolerates ... but then Hollywood indulges in high body count thrillers where hundreds of people can be blown away as long as it's done tastefully (i.e. with a lot of firepower involved). The butchery here is explicitly to scare. The pleasure of horror is not watching the others being killed as empathising with the survivor - putting yourself in the place of the one who will live, enjoying the thrills, spills, and scares, in the certain (?) knowledge that you will survive.
Which makes the twist at the end of "Haute Tension" the subject of so much criticism. Aja clearly saw it as embodying (or disembodying) a greater degree of emotional tension, adding relevance to what has gone before. I certainly found it a neat touch - having quickly identified the film as Koontz's story, I stayed watching because of the claustrophobia and stylishness Aja and de France brought to the production. The plot twist spun it away from Koontz and gave the film a whole new notoriety and a different set of references. French films are rarely stand alone - they revere and reference what has gone before. Aja, here, is not trying to create an entirely new horror movie, but he is exploring emotion and relationships with far greater sophistication and style than run-of-the-kill slasher films achieve.
An excellent film, well translated to DVD in anamorphic 2.35:1, with sharp images, good colour saturation, good use of low light levels, and a soundtrack which is a vital ingredient to the tension and visceral delight. The subtitles are effectively presented and well-judged. Altogether an excellent package which will doubtless set you arguing with your friends for some time - just stay clear of sharp objects.
on 8 February 2014
Intensely visceral and bloodthirsty shocker by French director Alexandre Aja. Cecile de France and Maïwenn le Bosco star as Marie and Alexia, two inseparable friends who go to stay in the country home of Alexia's parents for a quiet break, to study and relax. However, when a homicidal maniac (Philippe Nahon) turns up at their front door, the terror and carnage begins...
Good price, speedy delivery and well worth it and a twist in the film you wont see coming. enjoy