Thursday, June 20, 2013

Stress Kills

Now, I wouldn't be a proper, politically correct, pro-feminist blogger if I didn't mention Alexandre Aja's 2003 masterpiece of the slasher genre, Haute Tension (High Tension in the US).  This was one of those movies where people fought like rabid stoats over revealing the ending.  Considering the movie is now 10 years old, and the statute of limitations for spoilers has lapsed, I'm going to warn you now that this article contains spoilers.

Like any decent French film, it starts with a dream.  A young woman in a hospital gown.  Screams for help.  Bloody hands and open wounds.

Marie, our dreamer, is on a road trip with Alex, her bestest friend in the whole, wide world, to visit Alex's parents and study over the weekend.  She gets a tour of the house, they have dinner and they go to bed.  Well, Alex goes to bed.  Marie stays up flicking the bean. 

"I'm totally gonna masturbate in your guest bed."

Ruining the mood, some asshole rings the doorbell and Marie gets up to investigate, as does her father.  Of course, because this movie is French, there's no explanation for the serial killer at the door but, really, do we need one?  Alex's dad, who doesn't really need a shave, gets a straight razor to the face then gets decapitated by way of the staircase and a bookshelf.  This, of course, wakes up Alex's mom who gets to find her dead husband.

As the brouhaha continues, Marie gets up and rearranges the guest room so it looks like no one is staying there and hides under the bed.  Of course, the killer makes the cursory inspection and doesn't find her.  Sensing that the coast is clear, Marie makes her way to Alex's bedroom and finds her chained to the bed.


In the process of finding a phone, Marie has to hide in a closet and witness Alex's mothers death.  Alex's younger brother gets chased into a cornfield (minus children) and gets brutalized.  Marie returns to Alex and promises to get her free but as she's searching for the tools to do so (and a butcher knife to defend herself, Alex is taken into the killer's truck and whisked off for a night of fun and excitement.  Marie, of course, manages to get aboard before the killer locks the door.

When they stop for gas, Marie gives Alex the knife and sneaks into the gas station to get help where she gets to watch the attendant get an axe to the chest.

Does socialized medicine cover this?

Marie, like a smart woman, takes the attendant's car keys and follows the killer's truck down a deserted road where, because she's not really all THAT smart, the killer rams her car off the road into a ditch.  She's hurt but she's really determined to get herself killed by the madman holding her friend so she runs into the forest and arms herself with a fencepost wrapped with barbed wire.  She gets to beat the killer in the face with it a few times before he grabs her by the throat.  She suffocates him with a plastic bag and then goes to rescue Alex who seems HORRIFIED by the prospect.

And then we go over the tapes.  (Spoiler alert!)  Marie is the killer.  She bound and gagged Alex.  She killed Alex's family.  She slammed an axe into the gas station dude's chest.  SHE, is murderously in love with Alex.  
Lesbians and power tools... seriously?
It's all very Single White Female only without the "If I can't have you, I'll just BE you" angle.  

A lot of people didn't care for this movie but I think it's kind of amazing.  Watch it with the subtitles and you'll get it more than if you watch it with dubbing.

The way they played the killer versus Marie through the first half of the movie is nothing short of brilliant except for a HUGE plot hole.  How the hell is Marie following the killer in the truck with a stolen car if Marie IS the killer?  You know what, though?  I don't fucking care.  Movie magic strikes again.  If it's all a delusion, Marie probably didn't steal the car.  For that matter, I don't care where the killer got a truck to begin with, since Marie didn't drive herself to Alex's place.  All that matters, since this is a delusion and we don't know WHAT the facts are, is that Marie is a cold-ass psycho bitch.

The only thing that bugs me is that they chose to portray a psycho-lesbian again.  I know that the plot could have been played with a straight couple but the idea that the killer was A) a woman and B) a lesbian was calculated to shock the audience.  I get that but it plays into the "evil and mentally unstable" stereotype of gay characters (and gay people in general since I come across a whole slew of people that still think, even after 40 years of the scientific community telling them to cut the shit, that gay people are mentally ill).  It pisses me off a little, but, then again, this movie is kind of determined to do that regardless of WHO the killer was.

If you haven't seen this, see it.  If you HAVE, see it again.  It makes a little more sense the second time around.

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