Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Octopunk rants about the end of High Tension


In the wake of this year’s thon I had a couple flicks left over that I was too curious about to wait an entire 11 months to watch. I intend to give Freeze Me, Audition and High Tension repeat viewings next year and write “formal” reviews for them, but right now I wanted to float some ideas brought out by the twist at the end of High Tension.

In other words, I’m about to spoil it.

So if you don’t want to know,

you

should

stop

reading.

Okay! First of all: I agree with Summerisle, this twist is needless. I was completely grooving on how successfully scary that killer is, and the arbitrary targeting of Alexia’s family was part of that mystique. When it turns out that it’s all in Marie’s head, so that she can “save” Alexia, it felt like the filmmakers thought they needed a dash of M. Night Shyamalan to wrap up the story.

Props to I’mnotMarc for immediately asking the most pertinent question, “did anybody really have oral sex with a severed head?” Sadly, no.

There are elements in the setup that telegraph the twist a bit: Marie’s dream, the girls’ discussion about Alexia’s many boyfriends to Marie’s none, and, best of all, that Marie is masturbating as the killer is driving up in his truck. I also find it interesting that the killer’s raw brutality is a function of his being a figment – he’s the idea of a brutal killer, and therefore he’s worse, literally inhuman.

Unfortunately, any amount of punch to be gleaned from this twist is out the window after Marie’s revealed herself and we’re still watching a fat guy in jumpsuit. This is particularly nutty when she’s attacking the car with the circular saw: Alexia’s not seeing a fat guy, the poor driver’s not seeing a fat guy – how come we’re seeing a fat guy?

Answer: the filmmakers aren’t really all that into their own twist; they’d rather just have their scary fat guy on the rampage. So would I, for that matter, but dropping him in after they’d gone round the twist feels like a cheat. They'd have been better off ending it with more scenes of Marie in Murder Mode (and those flashes of her doing the family could be meatier as well). The actress certainly has the chops to do a good crazy. If they liked her so much better as a heroine, they should have left her that way. Or, if they really thought a tale of a random spree-killer wasn’t enough without the addition of the Worst Crush Ever, then they should’ve given that a fuller treatment.

Regardless, I am looking forward to watching this again; there’s a lot of interesting features to a movie depicting events that aren’t really happening. For instance:

This explains why Marie hides upstairs and listens to the whole family being murdered without helping.

Alexia’s behavior when Marie finds her bound makes more sense; it’s not that she’s inconsolable, it’s that Marie was the one who chained her up in the first place (this also better explains why Marie can’t get the gag off).

Marie, as the killer, actually pours alcohol on Alexia and threatens to burn her.

Marie hands Alexia the kitchen knife and calls the cops, so it’s clear she’s really quite nutty nutty hoo hoo.

Marie never really drives that zippy car (I was pleased that she imagined herself in something stylish). Despite this, she still has the head wound from the accident, even after we know the truth.

Lastly, it's fun to think about the sheer amount of work Marie had to do to set this all up. Renting a rusty van, filling it with tools, parking it in the country, getting back home again...quite amazing. Apparently she really needed to get laid.

I have a feeling these musings are much longer than my review will be, but there you are. I’d give this a ***1/2, at least.

4 comments:

Octopunk said...

I'mnotMarc was postulating a scenario in which Marie was a figment of the killer's imagination, so he could pretend he had a friendship with his key victim. It should be noted that this scenario was thunk up solely to bring the oral sex/severed head scene back into the realm of reality. Sick fuck.

Octopunk said...

Weird Resume Department:

The actress playing Alexia also starred as the blue, opera-singing alien in The Fifth Element.

JPX said...

Octopunk, did you watch the original, uncut, french version or the American DVD? I know when it was released in the theaters here that they trimmed some of the violence and they dubbed the film, bleeech! Although you may have had the option to watch it with subtitles, I wonder if you still saw the cut version? This, of course, has nothing to do with all your comments, which I completely agree with. I must admit though, I did like it when they showed the convenience store's video surveillance and the "twist" was shown. I wasn't happy with the twist but I like they way it was revealed.

Octopunk said...

Like Blair Witch 2!

The video tape never lies...