HIGH TENSION (Alexandre Aja)
This gripping, dripping horror film from France more than lives up to its name. Never released here theatrically, it should make for fun bilingual Halloween watching when it comes out on DVD later this month. But horror flick aficionados will want to race to the Royal this week to revel in all the suspense and gore on a big screen.
Law students Marie (Cécile De France ) and Alexia (Maïwenn ) are camped out at Alexia's family's farmhouse to study for exams when a brutal razor-wielding stranger comes a-knocking in the middle of the night.
What follows - silent killer decimates family while Marie darts around him and tries to save Alexia - is superbly done. Working on a small budget, director Alexandre Aja gets maximum effects from sinister sound design and evocative lighting, while legendary makeup artist Giannetto De Rossi comes through with such convincing carnage that you'll want to take a shower afterwards. On second thought, skip the shower.
Scenes at two other settings, a quiet gas station and a forest, both stick in the mind like an axe (another weapon used in the film). The actors sink into their roles nicely, as expressive with fearful eyes or sadistic laughter as they are with their few lines of dialogue.
What prevents the film from achieving classic status is the narrative confusion near the end. I'm all for twists, but they've got to make some sort of sense, even in the twisted logic of a thriller. Those in High Tension remain highly unlikely. (Royal, October 7 to 12).