The best horror movies these days are being made outside the U.S. I don't think anyone who follows the genre would argue otherwise. Hollywood has apparently run dry of new ideas, and so it has begun to recycle them ad nauseum. When that doesn't work, it imports them from abroad. Sometimes, it does both, as in the case of our next filmmaker.
The flash points of this foreign horror uprising are Spain, Japan, France, and to a lesser extent, Australia. I have trumpeted one Spanish film already, and it won't be the last. Soon enough, I will begin a protracted excursion into the stylish netherworld of J-Horror, and quite possibly will never return.
And so, it was with much anticipation that I sat down last night and screened Haute Tension, a French film by one of the men leading the invasion. I was aware that Alexandre Aja had been tapped by Wes Craven to do the recent remake of The Hills Have Eyes. I did not know he was a considered to be a member of the so-called "Splat Pack" that includes Eli Roth (Hostel, Cabin Fever); Darren Lynn Bousman, James Wan, and Leigh Whannel (the guys behind the Saw franchise); Rob Zombie, Greg McLean (Wolf Creek, Rogue), and Neil Marshall (The Descent, Dog Soldiers). Of that whole crew, only Marshall's films have impressed me very much (a review of The Descent is coming soon), so I probably would have tempered my expectations a bit.
As far as maniac killer movies go, Haute Tension is indeed a cut above (pardon the pun). I would have to go back to the heyday of Friday the 13th and Texas Chainsaw Massacre to find anything that can equal its outrageously graphic murder scenes or the moments of primal terror that precede them.
With that being said, the ending of this movie really pissed me off. I like twist endings. I really do. But not when the storytellers cheat their audience and pull a ten-foot rabbit out of their ass. I won't go as far as to ruin the surprise for anyone who hasn't seen Haute Tension, but I will continue to spray a big, sloppy raspberry at anyone who tries to convince me that the film makes one iota of sense in light of its late-inning reversal. And even worse, the twist completely robs the film of its ability to frighten you the second time around. And that, my friends, is unforgivable.
Scorecard (out of ten skulls):
My psychological status:
a bit sickened, but more cheated