Movie: Haute Tension (2003; released in the U.S. in 2005 as High Tension)
Writers: Alexandre Aja and Grégory Levasseur
The extremely hardcore French flick High Tension could arguably rank as one of the top three films of the new millennium if not for its asinine twist. Before the proverbial bed gets shat upon, director/co-writer Alexandre Aja and co-scribe Grégory Levasseur prove themselves to be fearless, imaginative masters of shocking carnage.
At a pleasant family's getaway cottage, where college friends Marie (Cécile de France) and Alex (Maïwenn) are shacked up for a weekend of studying, a random, greasy serial killer rings the doorbell in the middle of the night and proceeds to graphically terminate Alex's father, mother, and little brother.
And it's all genuinely disturbing, shot with artistic sure-handedness and a refreshing yet punishing lack of cut-aways. Once Alex gets kidnapped by the murderer and Marie chases after her, High Tension loses some of its gore but ratchets up the airtight tension, but then a bunch of cops show up out of nowhere, look at surveillance video, and see that it's Marie, not the burly madman we've been seeing all along, who's been doing the slaying.
The old "the main character is actually the killer" is one of the oldest and lamest tricks in the screenwriting book, and its use in High Tension nearly derails the entire picture by opening up several narrative holes. That is, until Aja redeems himself by staging an absurdly and gleefully grisly death involving a chainsaw and a car windshield. The twist still sucks royally, but, thanks to the impressive brutality, High Tension ultimately gets a pass.