Oh dear. The second of our Monday night horror movie BD double bill, Haute Tension (I refuse to call this film by its UK title) may be considerably better than Hush in every aspect of its execution, but ironically leaves a far more sour taste in the mouth because it falls so far from grace in its final 15 minutes, turning what could have been one of the best examples of the recent wave of French horror into one that assumes its audience consists of gullible idiots and propogates a nasty stereotype that reveals just how ignorant the director is.

Spoilers below (mouse over to view):

Yep, it’s our old friend the mad homicidal lesbian, a cliché that turns up without fail in just avoid every genre of every artform. In a twist that I’m sure writer/director Alexandre Aja thought was highly original, it’s revealed that the protagonist of the story, a young woman who goes to stay with her best friend’s family in a secluded farmhouse and witnesses them being butchered by a maniac, is in fact the killer. That’s right, forget everything you saw - that overweight, overall-clad, middle-aged man is in fact supposed to represent our heroine, a barely repressed lesbian who has a thing for her best friend and, when said friend doesn’t respond to her advances, decides butcher her whole family in revenge. (She conjures up this doppelganger while having a wank after spying on her friend in the shower, in case you’re wondering. This is one classy motion picture!) Never mind that none of this makes a lick of sense, given that the grand reveal completely contradicts everything that came before it - Aja clearly saw Fight Club and thought “What an absolutely wonderful twist! No-one will see it coming!” In a sense, he was probably right, because he doesn’t play fair, not even for a second. At least you can rewatch Fight Club and just about see how Edward Norton and Brad Pitt could be different manifestations of the same person. Rewatching Haunte Tension and knowing in advance how it would turn out, I found myself mentally cataloguing every instance where Aja doesn’t play fair.

More or less problematic, depending on how you feel about it, is what the film appears to be saying. Now, as my brother said to me last night (after we both calmed down and stopped shouting at the projector), I doubt any deliberate malice was intended, but appearances are everything. Reading between the lines, the film seems to convey that lesbians are in fact men trapped in women’s bodies, a moronic notion that was supposed to have been laid to rest a century ago. Bloodthirsty, homicidal men who delight in killing men, women, children and dogs, at that. Luckily, of course (insert eye-roll here), order is restored and that crazy dyke is banished to an insane asylum. Whew! Thank God for that, eh?

Image quality: There’s not much that can be said in favour of this disc, which, like the DVD before it, suffers from some of the worst dynamic range compression I’ve ever seen. Shadow detail is non-existent - just what we need with a film taking place primarily at night - and whites are clipped to hell too. Seriously, at times it looks like a camcorded bootleg, the greyscale is so bad… not that any of us have any idea what one of those looks like, eh? Detail isn’t particularly impressive, either, making this a far less pronounced upgrade over the DVD than most of us would have liked. Oh, and to add insult to injury, Optimum have opted to drop all of the bonus features that accompanied the DVD. 4/10

Switchblade Romance
studio: Optimum; country: UK; region code: B; codec: AVC;
file size: 17.6 GB; average bit rate (including audio): 27.89 Mbit/sec

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