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Film / High Tension

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Haute Tension (High Tension, also known as Switchblade Romance in the UK) is a 2003 French horror film directed by Alexandre Aja and staring Cécile de France, Maïwenn Le Besco and Philippe Nahon.

Marie (de France) and Alex (Besco), are two college students and longtime friends on their way to stay at Alex's parent's house for the weekend so they can study in peace. In the night, however, an insane truck driving Serial Killer (Nahon) comes to the house and murders Alex's family. He then abducts Alex herself. Marie goes after her with the intention of rescuing her, but it turns out the killer is not who he seems...

Critical reception was mixed to negative, with criticism generally being directed at the twist ending which, as much as it might make M. Night Shyamalan proud, also generates a gaping Plot Hole.


The original version was rated NC-17, and some bits had to be cut for it to be rated R.

This films provides examples of:

  • Ax-Crazy: The killer is ruthless in his butcheries of everyone he comes across. "He" becomes even worse after it's revealed that him and Marie are the same person.
  • Big Bad: The truck driver poses the most immediate threat to everyone in the film. Subverted in that it turns out he's actually a Villain Protagonist, being Marie's split personality.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Alex survives, and Marie is locked away. Unfortunately, Alex's entire family has been slaughtered by Marie, with Alex being unable to recover from that traumatic experience, and Marie gets off rather easy, despite being imprisoned.
  • Bound and Gagged: Poor Alex is in this state for most of the film, shackled by chains and gagged with a device secured with a lock.
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  • Chainsaw Good: Both the killer and Marie get a turn with a circular saw.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Marie, after seeing Alex showering through the bathroom window earlier that night. Since she's listening to her walk-man during the act, this prevents her from hearing the killer get into the house until the murders are well under way.
  • Double-Meaning Title: "High Tension" can refer to "high tension wire" seen in the film as well as the highly tense events that take place.
  • Dream Intro: The Dramatic Chase Opening is revealed to be Marie's dream.
  • Dubtitle: Lion's Gate's unrated DVD is this; made obvious by some lines from the dub showing up when there is no dialogue in the French version.
  • Evil All Along: Marie.
  • Final Girl: Subverted, in that the protagonist is also the killer, leaving both Alex and the killer alive in the end. That leaves Alex, the only survivor of the massacre, as the real Final Girl of the movie.
  • Foreshadowing: There is a lot of this, thought most is nigh impossible to register without knowing the Plot Twist... and some even then.
  • Girl with Psycho Weapon: During the film Marie is depicted wielding both a wooden club wrapped in barbed wire (as shown above) and a circular saw.
  • Gorn: There is a lot of blood in the film and the killings are shown in loving detail in most cases.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: While Alex's parents are shown to be brutally killed on screen, the audience only sees a glimpse of gunfire when the killer shoots Alex's kid brother in a corn field.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: Seeing how there was never any mention of a serial killer up until this point, Marie practically gives herself away as the killer when she implies to Alex that previous girls had been killed.
  • The Killer in Me: The killer is Marie's alternate personality.
  • A Love to Dismember: Near the start of the film, the killer fellates himself with a woman's severed head.
  • Madness Mantra
    "I won't let anyone come between us anymore, I won't let anyone come between us anymore..."
  • No Name Given: The killer's name is never revealed. This makes sense, as being Marie's split personality, of course he wouldn't have a name at all.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: The killer seems to be implying this to Marie when he says of Alexia "She turns you on, doesn't she? She turns me on too..." Of course the killer is Marie, so...
  • Psycho Lesbian: Marie's obsession with Alex fuels her alternate personality, who kills Alex's family to eliminate obstacles.
  • Serial Killer: The truck-driving killer might be one. He has killed at least one person before targeting Alex's family, and furthermore, is shown to keep photographs of different women by the mirror in his truck.
  • Slasher Movie: A strange example, as it seems to almost turn into an action movie at around the midpoint.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: Practically the whole story is Marie explaining how she witnessed another man committing her own crimes.
  • Twist Ending: The killer is in fact Marie; the truck driver is an alternate personality whom her normal side perceives as a seperate being, à la Fight Club. Marie had a lesbian crush on Alex, and her alternate personality murdered her family so nobody could come between them though she, believing the alternate personality to be a different person, would not have to feel any guilt.
  • Unreliable Narrator: The primary viewpoint character is Marie, who is also the killer.
  • Villain Protagonist: Marie is actually the killer, with that creepy truck driver just being the man she sees committing the murders.
  • Visual Pun: Both of Marie's personalities came at the same time.
  • Yandere: The killer wants Alex all to themself, and is not opposed to brutally murdering her entire family to do it, and everyone that comes across afterwards. Unfortunate drivers on forest roads beware.