15 Sep 2013

'Switchblade Romance [A.K.A High Tension]' Review

Director: Alexandra Aja
Writers: Alexandra Aja, Gregory Levasseur
Stars: Cecile De France, MaïwennPhilippe Nahon
Running Time: 91 mins
Sub-Genre: Slasher, Thriller, Drama, Mystery
Release: 2003 (France), 2004 (UK), 2005 (Worldwide)

Alexia travels with her friend Marie to spend a couple of days with her family in their farm in the country. They arrive late and they are welcomed by Alexia's father. Late in the night, a sadistic and sick killer breaks into the farmhouse, slaughters Alexia's family--including their dog--and kidnaps Alexia. Marie hides from the criminal and tries to help the hysterical and frightened Alexia, chase the maniac, and disclose his identity in the end.

Released back in the mid 2000's, High Tension (our Switchblade Romance over here in the UK) had been passed around, country to country causing a large rumble in the horror genre and with horror fans, for good reasons of course  and although it didn't go down as well with critics, scoring a below average of 41% on Rotten Tomatoes, horror audiences around the globe seemed to have eaten this up like it was their favourite gory dish, so I felt it was about time, after all these years that I gave it a watch, and I did not regret that decision.

Leave it to the french to deliver a kick-ass horror flick every once and a while, and you have to admit, no one does them like the French (*cough* Them, Inside, The Horde, Martyrs *end fake cough*). High Tension (or stupidly named Switchblade Romance) can sit on its thrown right there at the top as France's top horror. Gritty, raw and sick are all but a few words that describe the self-explanatory slasher (High Tension, because it's high on tension, get it? No? ok then.), and after watching it, you will realize that there has never been a more slick and savage slasher film made like this before. Guys seriously, don't make the mistake I made by leaving it this long to watch, do it now.

There is nothing really new here that we haven't seen before, but I mean how frequent is it that you see a horror that is completely new huh? (Well, Cabin in the Woods comes to mind but that's about it.). Sure it may not be "original" but it's certainly a breathe of fresh air for the slasher sub-genre, and proves that you don't always need a screaming bimbo, a masked killer and an iconic weapon to staple your place into the sub-genre. It's different, I can give it that, not so different were it doesn't quite know were it's going with the narrative which does occur around the final act, but not so mainstream that you can identify each cliche as they come rolling one after the other; Switchblade is something to admire, not something to dismiss.

Within the slasher sub-genre, it's a powerhouse of a film, and that aspect can be identified through the narrative structure as the film progresses. Surprisingly  it's not as one-dimensional as I thought it would have been, I mean there is an intellectual lair underneath the blood and guts that take place within the film, and despite its complete idiotic, arrogant and unnecessary plot twist at the end, it was still a smart slasher affair that was presented with edge.

By no means is it perfect, I mean you have heard me talk about that god-damn plot twist which in my opinion brought the film down a peg or two, but it's something that should be admired academically and as a general watch. Perhaps more for the horror hounds and less for the brainless movie watchers, Switchblade has enough taut horror elements to keep you on the very edge of your seat, and enough raw gore to make you squint in fear of catching the gruesome, almost unwatchable deaths; it's nothing we haven't seen before, but it's still extremely effective.

Almost like Alien and the recent You're Next, Switchblade has a leading lady that, aside from the final act really stands out as an intelligent female heroine that knows how to get sh*t done. Cecile De France plays the role more fleshed out than the initial cardboard character we are introduced to at the start, she provides a tough, go-getter quality to the character that works in complete advantage for the film. Although her performance doesn't make the film what it is, and the dubbing was extremely poor, she is still a valuable aspect in making Switchblade Romance the modern classic it's destined to be.

VERDICT: Part horrifyingly tense and gruesome, part unnecessarily silly, Switchblade Romance stands as a fantastic horror affair with a third act twist that reeks like a rotten corpse. Its gripping, smart, gory and raw, Alexandra Aja delivers a slasher that takes the sub-genre to a whole new level, and despite it's narrative flaws and cliche's, it's still unbelievably and undeniably fresh.


  1. Great review.

    I also hold the opinion that the plot twist ruins the movie. It's straight out of the M Night Shymalanlananan school of shoddy script-writing.

    But up until those final few frames, the film is a masterpiece of suspense. You've gotta love those fucked up French horror directors.

    1. Thanks Ben! Yeah I know! I mean what was that ending about?! If they would have left it alone as a simple slash and chase horror then it would have been better, still loved it though

    2. Oh and may i add that I agree about the suspense and the fact that you wrote "Shymalanlananan", I did chuckle there for a second

  2. Apart from the stupid twist, I found High Tension to be great! It holds up well on rewatches too.

    1. I totally agree! Extremely unnecessary, but the film aside from the twist is great! Thanks for dropping by!



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