If it's crap ... We'll tell you
Even though I'm a big horror fan, I missed previous chances to see this French film that was director Alexandre Aja's horror debut in 2003. It was widely being discussed in and around the community, but more so for criticism (and some downright hatred) directed at its ending more than the film itself. That kind of passion had to stem from something, right? I can't say I liked "High Tension"s twist any more than most of the people I've talked to, but I can see why it was such a let down for them, because the rest of the film is bloody wonderful.
Marie (Cécile de France) and her friend Alex (Maïwenn Le Besco) are two young ladies on their way out to the French countryside to stay with Alex's family for the weekend. All seems well upon arrival, but later that night, as the family slumbers away and a bored Marie performs skillful pleasure ministrations upon herself in her assigned guest room, a serial killer arrives (Philippe Nahon) and starts gorily massacring the members of the family. Marie dodges around him, keeping him unaware of her presence and trying to get out of the house while having to bear unfortunate witness to the killings. When the killer believes he's done and prepares to leave in his beat-up old truck, Marie sneaks on board in order to try and free her friend Alex, the one surviving family member who the killer has trussed up and thrown in the back in order for who-knows-what later.
For the majority of its 91 minutes, "High Tension" is well named. Simple, direct, and to the point, the movie follows Marie exclusively, which works so well because de France is such a wonderful performer. She's almost instantly catapulted into the firmament of great female horror leads by sheer virtue of her intensity in the part. The other star of the film that shines oh-so-brightly, is the practical effects artist Giannetto De Rossi, arguably the greatest horror F/X guy of all time, who was one of gore-master Lucio Fulci's favorite people to work with, which should tell you something about just how amazing and effusive the gore is here. The truth is, even though the ending is going to require more suspension of disbelief than I believe most people possess, "High Tension" is a new horror classic up until that point. Anyone who considers themselves even mildly a fan of scary or gory films, really needs to give this a shot.
--CLICK HERE TO BUY High Tension [Blu-ray]
2001 MANIACS (Blu-Ray)
Horror fans are a weird bunch. I can say that, you know, because I am one of them. Any other genre that put out a movie this bad (except porn), it wouldn't even be considered worthy of a DVD release, much less be released on Blu-Ray, much less warrant ANOTHER sequel years later ("2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams" came out this year and is already available on DVD). But here we are. Sometimes I want to stare my fellow aficionados right in the eyes and say, 'What have we wrought?' . Regardless of horror icon Robert Englund (who'll apparently say no to almost nothing these days), lots of naked girls, and, of course, the bare minimum requirement of gore for a HG Lewis sequel/remake, watching "2001 Maniacs" did terrify me. Well, in the sense that it made me confront the part of myself that led me to think this might be worth any of my time. Those are some nasty and terribly optimistic inner demons I got going on.
Despite the added number to the title, this film is considered a remake of HG Lewis's landmark 1964 low-budget splatter film "Two Thousand Maniacs!" that, I'll admit, didn't do much for me either. The story follows some college kids and a biker couple on their way to the beach for Spring Break who follow a crappy looking hand painted 'Detour' sign and turn off the main road onto a small dirt path that leads them to the hidden town of Pleasant Valley (population 2001, natch). The town, led by their confederate flag-eyepatched Mayor Buckman (Englund), converge on the arriving young northerners immediately, inviting them to celebrate their annual "Guts and Glory" Civil War remembrance party. And at this point, is there a single viewer who doesn't believe that these kids are too dumb to deserve to live? Of course, everything is exactly like it seems and these oversexed, mega-hicks are cannibalistic ghosts seeking vengeance (and apparently, sperm) for their town's destruction during the civil war.
Yes, I just spoiled the ending of the film for you. No, it won't change a thing for you watching it; you'll put all this together for yourself in the first 15 minutes. You certainly don't watch a movie like "2001 Maniacs" for the clever twists or complex storylines anyway, which is good because it's got neither. What it does have is several average looking girls (some downright nasty) with too much makeup exposing their floppy breasts quite a bit, enough gore to meet the criteria for a 'splatter' film but none of it particularly interesting, and and endless stream of redneck and southern man jokes, so many that, even as a confirmed Yankee, it was chafing me inside of a half hour. Perhaps if they had consulted some actual comedy writers "2001 Maniacs" could have been an entertaining horror romp. As is, it's bad for the sake of being bad and it's not even good at doing that.
--CLICK HERE TO BUY 2001 Maniacs [Blu-ray]