Haute Tension (High Tension)
I've heard this movie get a lot of crap for being a slasher, for featuring a very odd twist (which I enjoyed personally), for being French, and for featuring some extremely soft-core masturbation scenes. That's all fine and dandy, but I still liked the movie. Call me crazy, but when someone releases a slasher that is actually compelling and suspenseful, I can't get enough of it. It's like the first time you see Jason jump out of the lake into that canoe, or when the hall monitor turns into Freddy Krueger, you just knew some crazy shit was about to happen. Same thing here, only more European and with less of the "half-naked American teenagers go to the lake only to get slaughtered one-by-one" vibe. Of course the main female characters are very pretty and sexually open (that's not the word I'm looking for; I can't really describe it, but you know what I mean). Of course the violence is over-the-top and gushing, just how it should be. Of course all the French people speak French. But it's still more than just a slasher.
It has the obligatory twist ending, which I actually enjoyed. Since the film was made, there have been many, many more movies following the same formula. But it still works; it still has that power to shock you. The violence even got to me a little bit, even a hardcore veteran of schlock horror. I just never really get why they have to kill off children or animals in horror movies, that's probably why it affected me. Even killers need to have some limits, and I think children should be one of those. There's a reason they don't include kids in video games like GTA: they don't want you to murder them. (Although, it's of course okay to kill men and women, as long as they are of a certain age. Do not question Rockstar, they are all-knowing in the ethics department.)
The sheer terror shown by the main female is wonderful; Cecile de France, I think is her name. (Why do I know that?) She does a great job at being the Final Girl. (Read Carol Cleaver's excellent study of women in horror called Men, Women, and Chainsaws. What a fantastic title for a book.) She reminds me a bit of Nancy in Nightmare on Elm Street or even Laurie Strode from Halloween. She's resourceful, she fights back, she doesn't give up. It's a shame what happens to her, it really is. But I won't ruin the twist.
As far as villains go, up until the end, the bad guy in this one is quite bland and forgettable. He's just some greasy trucker-man who wears a yucky coat and practices unsafe sex. (See scene one for evidence.) He has no real motive besides this sexual fetishism, I suppose, but it's enough. He's a French cross between Rusty Nail from Joy Ride and that damn demon-man from Jeepers Creepers, except without the supernatural bullshit. I kept wanting him to say, "Caaandy Caaaane." I don't remember him ever having any actual dialogue, until the end maybe, just a little growling.
I've seen this movie in the original French and with some extremely well-done English subtitles. I would recommend the movie in either format, depending on what you're comfortable with. I'm pretty sure that most people can guess the ending before it happens, but it's still well-done. So watch out for it. And watch out for French truckers.