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JUST SAY NON TO THIS SLASHER FLICK.

Byline: Bob Strauss Film Critic

I DON'T usually have problems with the French.

They don't want to fight questionable wars or join unwieldy continental bureaucracies? Totally their right. Act like they have the best art, finest food and most beautiful women in the world? Well, no harm in acknowledging reality. Napoleonic law, pasteurization, champagne - generally good stuff, ya gotta admit.

But even my Gallic tolerances snapped at this new French slasher movie, ``High Tension.''

It's bloody and sadistic and scary, but it's supposed to be, so that isn't the problem. Half of it has been dubbed poorly into English, with the other half still, absurdly, subtitled, but that's not the main complaint, either. And since most of the movie involves screaming, chasing and dismembering, nonverbal acting dominates, and is actually above-average quality for this kind of thing.

So, what's le boeuf? Twenty minutes before the end, director Alexandre Aja and his co-writer Gregory Levasseur throw in a twist so unnecessary, so wrongheaded and so resoundingly stupid that it makes about half of what we've been watching up to that point logically impossible. Even for a genre known for narrative incoherence, this feels gratuitously perverse beyond even the most graphic gore. It's childishly homophobic, as well.

This is extra unfortunate since Aja rather expertly ratchets the suspense up to this point. The idea is that two teenage pals, tomboyish Marie (Cecile de France) and sexy Alex (Maiwenn), retreat to Alex's parents' isolated farmhouse to study for their college exams. That night, a mouth- breathing psycho with a straight razor (Philippe Nahon, the immensely disturbing presence from Gaspar Noe's ``I Stand Alone'') breaks in, chops up all of Alex's relatives and drives off into the dark countryside with her, chained, in his panel truck.

Plucky Marie, who managed to avoid the killer's notice, gives chase. Then gets chased. It all becomes quite frightening ... until it gets so frustrating that you wish you had a big, gooey wad of rotting Camembert to throw at the screen.

It's that irritating.

Bob Strauss, (818) 713-3670

bob.strauss(at)dailynews.com

HIGH TENSION - One and one half stars

(R: violence, nudity, sex, language, children in jeopardy)

Starring: Cecile de France, Maiwenn, Philippe Nahon.

Director: Alexandre Aja.

Running time: 1 hr. 25 min.

Playing: Wide release.

In a nutshell: French slasher film is damaged by a mixture of bad dubbing and subtitles and an unnecessary third-act twist that makes about half of what we've seen prior to it maddeningly nonsensical.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 10, 2005
Words:413
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