High Tension (Haute Tension) (2003)

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Released 15-Jun-2006

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Menu Animation & Audio
Gallery-Photo-(2)
Production Notes-(10 Pages)
Interviews-Cast & Crew-(4)
Theatrical Trailer-(2) English & French
Trailer-Irreversible; 9 Songs; Lost Things; I Stand Alone
Featurette-Making Of-(36:18)
Dolby Digital Trailer-Desert
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 87:00
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (78:15) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Alexandre Aja
Studio
Distributor
Accent Film Entertainment Starring Cécile De France
Maïwenn Le Besco
Philippe Nahon
Franck Khalfoun
Andrei Finti
Oana Pellea
Marco Claudiu Pascu
Jean-Claude de Goros
Bogdan Uritescu
Gabriel Spahiu
Case Amaray-Opaque-Secure Clip
RPI $24.95 Music François Eudes


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None French Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    High Tension (Haute Tension) is a French language horror film, also known in the UK as Switchblade Romance. This film doesn't have any hidden messages or moral subtext. Its simple purpose is to scare the pants off you, and in that regard it does very well indeed.

    Alex (Maiwenn) and Marie (Cecile de France) are a pair of happy schoolmates; young, vivacious and enjoying life as only students can. The pair need to do some study away from the usual distractions, so they travel to a remote farmhouse owned by Alex's family. The girls are welcomed and they settle into their rooms, but their stay is interrupted late at night by a stranger (Philippe Nahon) who arrives in a dirty truck. Will they survive the night of tension that awaits them?

    To give away any more of the plot would be a disservice. Suffice it to say this is one of the scariest, most violent films you will see. The film is clearly harking back to the glory days of 1970s horror and some aspects of it are admittedly a little clichéd, but any shortcomings are more than made up for with style and atmosphere. The film has a great final twist at the end that should get you thinking, although it is certainly not the kind of finale that is appreciated by all viewers.

    The direction by Alexandre Aja is first rate, with plenty of attention given to the film's smooth flow and bold visual style. The level of gore isn't as high as you would expect, however the confronting scenes that are present really make you jump out of your seat. Judging by the film's length in comparison to other regions, we appear to have the full, uncut version.

    This year Alexandre Aja completed Fox's remake of The Hills Have Eyes, which should be interesting to see. I'm looking forward to seeing more from this director.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer is presented in the film's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    Nothing annoys me more than a poorly lit, poorly transferred horror movie with shadow detail that completely betrays the atmosphere of the film. Thank goodness that is not an issue here! The image is clean and sharp throughout, with plenty of visible detail in foreground and background objects. The high level of clarity extends from well-lit scenes to the film's many dark, shadowy scenes so that the viewer can always see what is happening on screen.

    The film appears to have been digitally graded, which offers a slightly subdued colour palate with a lovely consistency throughout the film. Blood effects are a gorgeous deep rich burgundy, while the remainder of the feature is dominated by pale blues and greens. I didn't note any rendering inconsistencies or colour bleeding in the slightest.

    The video has been encoded with a variable MPEG bitrate, averaging 6.1 Mb/s. There are absolutely no compression glitches to speak of in the transfer. Film artefacts are similarly absent, although an inconsequential wash of film grain has been retained, probably for stylistic reasons.

    English subtitles are optional and can be selected from the main menu or on the fly. The yellow font is very easy to read and follows the pace of the dialogue accurately. I didn't notice any annoying spelling or grammatical errors.

    This disc is dual layered, with a layer transition located towards the end of the feature at 78:15.Obviously, this is the climax of the film, so I imagine if you are viewing the film on a player without a buffer the pause could be quite disruptive. The transition between layers was completely transparent on my system.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Here's where things get a bit strange. There are three soundtracks included on the disc, but only two are listed on the cover slick and the main menu. Two of these appear to be the film's original French language (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448Kb/s) and are absolutely identical. I'm a little baffled as to why the authors would include a duplicate of the French audio, but it's there nonetheless, and it's occupying disc space that could be dedicated elsewhere (how about a commentary?). A hideous English dub is also included (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448Kb/s), but should be avoided. The default audio is dependant on your language selection from the main menu. I listened to the original French audio in its entirety and sampled the English dub periodically.

    This film was screened theatrically with French Dolby Digital 6.1 EX and dts audio.

    The French dialogue is always distinct and easy to discern above the effects and score. More than half of the film is void of dialogue, so the building of tension is reliant more upon triggers from the score and such. The film's ADR is completely seamless and I didn't notice any issues relating to audio sync.

    Surround activity is fairly constant, ranging from subtle noises such as wind and heavy breathing to dedicated effects and echoes. During the scene at the petrol station the pump can be heard ticking over in the rear right channel as the camera pans away. The rear channels also carry the score at times and are used to build anxiety to great effect. Voices are generally confined to the front centre channel and rarely stray.

    In comparing the two language options, I found that both are very similar in terms of output level, and that is rather loud even by my standards. The English dub is rushed, poorly lip-synced and contains some very corny characterisations. I guess it will be embraced by viewers with a phobia of subtitles, however I just found it irritating in the extreme.

    The score by Francois Eudes is exceptional, and suits the pace and tone of the film exactly. Awesome UK rock band Muse are also featured heavily.

    The LFE channel is utilised regularly and effectively to build tension and accentuate effects in the soundtrack. The drums contained in the score are represented very well in this regard.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    This is a great collection of extra material, all worthwhile viewing and pertinent to the film. Most of the extras are non-16x9 enhanced, French language with optional English subtitles. Be careful though, there are plenty of spoilers here so make sure you view the film first.

Menu Animation & Audio

    Each menu page is 16x9 enhanced and animated with blood-curdling scenes from the film, complete with audio.

Dolby Digital Trailer - Desert

    Regardless of the language option you choose, the Dolby trailer plays before the feature. It can be fast forwarded, but not skipped. I haven't seen this trailer on a new disc in some time.

Featurette - Haute Tension: Making of d'un Survival (36:18)

    This Making Of covers a lot of ground in its short runtime and is far superior to the normal tripe we're accustomed to in such featurettes. Writers Alexandre Aja and Gregory Lecasseur talk us through most aspects of the filmmaking process and share some amusing situations they encountered along the way. The film's budget was surprisingly small, which they claim forced them to be more spontaneous and creative. This is insightful viewing but beware; there are major plot spoilers present.

Cast & Crew Interviews (4)

Still Gallery

    The Gallery is split into two sections. The first covers a selection of International Posters (5) and the second has some photos that were taken on the set (28).

Production Notes

    Ten pages of interview-style text, offering thoughts from the writing/directing team.

Theatrical Trailers (2)

    Both the English and French Theatrical Trailers are here and appear to be identical (1:38) aside from their language.

Accent Trailers (4)

    Promo trailers are here for 9 Songs, Irreversible, Lost Things and I Stand Alone.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    There are a few different releases out there and they all vary slightly.

    The Region 1 (NTSC) disc from Lion's Gate (also titled High Tension 90:48) includes the following extras:

    The Region 2 UK (PAL) release from Optimum (titled Switchblade Romance 87:00) includes an additional English Audio Commentary by Director Alexandre Aja and Actress Cecile de France. Reviews of this title speak very highly of the video quality.

    A Korean Region 3 (NTSC) edition exists and is comprised of two discs with French dts audio and optional English subtitles. Unfortunately the transfer is a PAL-NTSC conversion.

    The Region 2 French (PAL) release by EuropaCorp (titled Haute Tension 87:00) is spread over two discs and boasts a high, constant video bitrate along with a full bitrate French dts soundtrack. Unfortunately there are no English subtitles provided at all.

    Our Region 4 disc appears to be the same as the French Region 2 release (condensed onto a single disc), but omits the dts audio in favour of an English dub.

    The local product is good, but I'm inclined to prefer the Optimum UK Edition for the commentary. Be sure to shop around for this one as prices vary.

Summary

    Haute Tension is a fantastic horror film that succeeds in its aim to frighten viewers out of their wits. I'm looking forward to seeing more from this director.

    The video transfer is great.

    The audio transfer is excellent.

    The extras are above average in terms of quality and replay value.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Rob Giles (readen de bio, bork, bork, bork.)
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-3910, using DVI output
DisplaySanyo PLV-Z2 WXGA projector, Screen Technics Cinemasnap 96" (16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-2802 Dolby EX/DTS ES Discrete
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora lll Mains (bi-wired), Rears, Centre Rear. Orpheus Centaurus .5 Front Centre. Mirage 10 inch sub.

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Comments (Add)
I rather the Dolby Tracks, not DTS - Gizmo35 (The Biography ain't much to look at.)