For a solid hour, High Tension is an unbeatable horror flick. The music is disorienting, the characters are interesting, and the carnage comes out of nowhere. A young co-ed travels to her friend’s parents’ isolated cottage for a weekend of studying, and, for the houseguest, some up-close-and-personal time with a gal pal she secretly lusts after. But then a silent hulk in a delivery man’s outfit ring the doorbell and proceeds to hack up nearly everyone in sight. A dresser is used to decapitate the father (we won’t spoil “how” exactly, but just know that it’s completely badass), the mother gets carved up like slaughterhouse meat, and even the friend’s little brother dies.
French director Alexandre Aja (who most recently made Piranha 3D) shows off with a Master’s class in slasher movie-making throughout the home invasion sequence; unfortunately, he also fancied himself as the next M. Night Shyamalan, and that’s never positive. High Tension topples quite a bit in the end, with an implausible twist that undermines everything that happens before it and taints what could’ve been a modern-day genre classic. But for two-thirds of its running time, High Tension is the truth.