Switchblade Romance (originally titled "Haute Tension") - 2003 (French with English subtitles)
IMDB genre keywords: Crime/Horror
Directed by Alexandre Aja
Screenplay by Alexandre Aja and Grégory Levasseur
Starring Cécile De France as Marie, and Maïwenn Le Besco (credited simply as "Maïwenn") as Alex

I won't let anyone come between us again... I won't let anyone come between us again...


Marie and Alex go to Alex's parents' isolated farmhouse to revise for their exams without any distractions. Then a psychopath turns up and tries to kill them. That's it. That's all it needs.

Why You Should Watch/Rent/Buy This:

You. Will. Shit. Your. Pants.

Don't be fooled by the simple plot description. The French title translates as "High Tension", and that's what you get. This is one of the most intense, brutal, unrelenting horror films I've seen for years. A lot of the tension comes from simple scenes where someone is hiding from the killer, trying to stay quiet, trying not to be seen. They are really simple sequences, but I guarantee that you will be soiling yourself in terror. Bring a plastic bag, wear a nappy, or buy two tubs of popcorn and empty one on the floor before the film starts. It's that good.

A lot of horror lately has either had comedy elements, or a sarcastic, postmodern-humour feel. Some other movies hold back, or tone down the gore to get more ticket sales. If you want a pure horror movie that doesn't joke around, doesn't hold back, doesn't let you off the hook for a second, then go and see this movie immediately. This is raw, old school, 70s-style horror. It doesn't resort to cheap BOO!-type jump shocks - when the killer is on screen, he never hides, we see him walking around in plain sight. The thing about horror is, everything has been done before. Everything. In both good and bad movies. The trick is to find new ways of presenting the same old "psycho killing people" routine - that this movie succeeds in scaring you to such an extent, even though there's not really anything that new or ground breaking about it, is quite an achievement.

I first saw it at the FrightFest (weekend horror festival) at the Prince Charles Cinema, but it's on general release now (end of September 2004) in the UK and Ireland - it should be released early in 2005 in the US. Both times I saw it, the audience was utterly silent all the way through, until the credits came up, when you could clearly hear a sigh of relief. It's gritty, raw, and will stay with you for a long, long time. The acting is top notch, the film doesn't have an ounce of spare fat on it, and the sparse music adds to the tension. Christ, even the opening credits are freaky, letting you know that this is not going to be a pleasant, feelgood experience. Mind you, one particular sequence that got cheers and applause from the audience, is one of the most satisfying moments in the movies, ever. Some people have a problem with the ending, which seems to have some errors of logic - I didn't like it myself at first, but a second viewing erased most of those doubts. Some of it still doesn't make sense, but all of it can be explained if you give it enough thought, and watching it twice is definitely helpful. Even if you hate it, it shouldn't spoil the movie for you. You'll be too freaked out to even think about it.

I've deliberately not given much away about the story or talked about any specific scenes, because the less you know going in, the better, it'll add to the tension. Even seeing it a second time though, I was on the edge of my seat. I can't recommend this movie enough. If you love horror, you'll love this. If you get scared or disturbed easily, then you probably won't have a good time. Last time I saw it, there were two walkouts as soon as the killing started (please let me know if anyone walks out when you see it, just for my own amusement).

Just go and see it. Or I'll kill you. And your family.

Most Excellent Movie Trivia:

Maïwenn Le Besco, who plays Alex, was the blue diva (Diva Plavalaguna) in The Fifth Element - directed by Luc Besson, who produced Switchblade Romance, and with whom Maïwenn has a child.

Wes Craven has been looking for someone to remake his film The Hills Have Eyes for some time. When he saw Switchblade Romance, he met up with Alexandre Aja and insisted that he write and direct the remake. It is the only remake I have ever looked forward to - I love the original, but it has dated quite badly. Hopefully they'll find a part for Michael Berryman somewhere...

The French title is "Haute Tension", which means "High Tension". Coincidentally, Philippe Nahon, who plays the psychopath, was in a movie called "Haute tension - Meurtres en douce" in 1990, playing a magician.

Gianetto De Rossi, who did the special makeup effects, also worked on lots of old Italian horror movies, like Zombie Flesh Eaters, Cannibal Apocalypse and The Beyond.

Cheers to IMDB as always for the cast names and genre keywords.