Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Women in Horror: High Tension
*** This review contains spoilers. ***
Marie and Alex are college friends and go to Alex's family's country home to study for the weekend. After getting settled in and Alex and her family go to bed, Marie sees an old truck drive up the house. A person rings the doorbell and Alex's father is greeted with violence. The man kills Alex's whole family and takes Alex prisoner, while Marie struggles to keep the killer unaware of her and to find a way to free her friend. Will Marie save Alex or will she just become one of the killer's victims?
High Tension is a wonderful, fast paced, exciting horror film up until the twist ending. So right now, I'm going to pretend the ending doesn't exist. Marie is a very strong, resourceful woman, who subverts all the horror movie stereotypes about women. She doesn't run upstairs when she should run out the front door; she doesn't freeze with fear or turn into a blubbering idiot. The fact that she's a lesbian is even more impressive because they are rarely seen in horror except to include gratuitous scenes of nudity and girls kissing for the enjoyment of the stereotypically male audience. For most of the film, she avoids detection and tries admirably to free Alex from the Killer clutches and get help with stealth, speed, and intelligence. She is one tough heroine and a formidable match for the Killer, even though she's half his size. The Killer is insane and horribly disgusting. In his first seen, he throws a decapitated head out the of the window of his car after pleasuring himself with it. His sexuality is warped and taboo, deriving pleasure and humor from mayhem and murder. It becomes apparent that Alex is one in a series of victims that he's kidnap and killed, among other unimaginable things. His kills are creative, sadistic, brutal, and very bloody. His cat and mouse game with Marie is intense to watch, more than living up to the title of the film. When they finally come face to face, the fight is violent and desperate, then very confusing when the twist comes into play.
You might expect this film to be a strong woman triumphing over a grotesque male killer, but you would be wrong. The M. Night Shyamalan-esque twist reveals that Marie and the killer are one and the same. The film is told through her fractured mind and obviously most of it isn't real. After the twist occurs, this otherwise awesome film is reduced to a misogynistic and homophobic one that suggests that Marie is a serial killer because of her unrequited love for Alex. She removes anyone with any connection to her so they will never be separated. The killer's grotesque sexuality is now equated with her sapphic feelings. I would argue that fellating oneself with a severed head isn't equal to a woman's romantic feelings for another woman, but the film's message is clear. Not only does this complicate things conceptually, but it opens huge plot holes throughout the film, like where the truck came from, how Marie sustained the injuries she got from the car crash and the fight with the killer, and the list goes on and on.
High Tension is mostly a great horror film. Marie's crazy mind is a great story teller and I loved the film up to the twist ending. I'm so frustrated that the ending effectively ruins the entire film, but there you have it. I would recommend people to watch it with a disclaimer that I hate the ending.
My rating: 7/10 fishmuffins