Best friends Marie (de France) and Alex (Maiwenn) decide to spend a quiet weekend at Alexia’s parents’ secluded farmhouse. On the night of their arrival, a brutal killer (Nahon) turns the girls’ idyllic getaway into an endless night of horror. When he prepares to drive off in his battered truck with a bound and gagged Alex in the back, Marie’s resilience kicks in: she’ll stop at nothing to protect her friend.
This is the more multiplex end of the New French Extremity movement, which may be less of a movement and more like 10 nasty films from the noughties plus the entire output of Gaspar Noe. Co-writer and director Aja has had a fairly high profile subsequent American career with The Hills Have Eyes, Piranha 3D and Crawl.
This version looks absolutely fabulous: the colours and lighting are standout and raise the film far above its low budget. Noe’s fave actor Philippe Nahon is on unspeakably beastly form as the killer who is too bad to be true and Cecile de France’s physicality is impressive.
I’m not sure the note of tension is sustained throughout, but this is definitely a masterclass in mixing tension and gore. The righteous gore comes at just the right times to stop you thinking about plot holes: things not to do with a sideboard and an angle grinder in a confined space are highlights.
It’s interesting to note the nods to American horror films and the tweaks to these tropes – and mis-steps – that feel very European: the sequence where the camera follows Marie around Alex’s parents’ house have a European heft; whereas maybe the car chase goes on too long.
Special features include:
● Dual format edition including both UHD and Blu-ray with main feature and bonus features on both
● UHD presented in HDR10+ approved by director Alexandre Aja
● New audio commentary by Dr Lindsay Hallam
● An Experiment in Suspense: a new interview with Alexandre Aja
● The Man in the Shadows: a new interview with Writer Grégory Levasseur
● The Darker The Better: an interview with Cinematographer Maxime Alexandre
● The Great French Massacre: an interview with Special Effects Artist Giannetto De Rossi
● Only the Brave: Alexandra Heller-Nicholas on High Tension