Halloween rules. Especially in this town – that special time of year when all your buddies are unemployed and so are you. When you’re forced to cash in six months worth of change just to buy enough food for the week, and that fresh bottle of Jack. When it pisses rain all day, rent looms, and there’s nothing else to do except stay home and hit bongs and play video games all day, either that or put your mind to good use and watch two dozen horror movies.
Halloween is when most movie columnists act clever and dash off lists of the scariest movies of all time – The Exorcist, Jaws, Psycho, The Shining, and either Halloween or Friday the 13 th . Honestly, if you haven’t already seen each of these at least twice you need to stop reading, go to the kitchen, get the cheese grater, and firmly scrape it up and down the left side of your face a few times whilst pouring Tabasco on the ensuing pulpy wound. These flicks are classic and if you aren’t familiar with them, well, you’re wasting my time.
Of course time is something we all have a lot of these days so I was thinking, to celebrate the opening this Friday of Saw 2 (more gore, more skittish direction, and yes, one New Kid On The Block) that perhaps I could hit you with five of the key horror sequels – Amityville Horror 2, Exorcist 3, Evil Dead 2, Alien 3 Directors cut, and Dawn of the Dead. But these are pretty standard too.
So instead I think we’ll ressurect the DVD of the week and tell you about a certain new horror film that’s so goddamn good I actually had to stop it in the middle while my supermodel girlfriend locked all the doors and propped an axe handle next to her side of the bed. That movie, dear readers, is High Tension , the best slasher film I’ve seen in years.
Standing on the shoulders of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom (both from 1960), the slasher film originated in the ’70s and usually consisted of a basic plot involving sexual morality (sex = dead), dumb teenagers, and unique new ways to slice people’s guts out. Think of such classics as Texas Chainsaw Massacre , Halloween, or Sleepaway Camp . The genre went through a low phase in the ’90s when the slasher film (along with everything else) got all post-modern and ironic (and kinda gay.) Think Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, or Scary Movie . Now, however, the slasher film is back and it took two guys from France to finally do it right with High Tension (Haute Tension.)
High Tension is about Marie and Alex, two college girls who go to spend a quiet weekend studying at Alex’s family’s country home. Suddenly a maniacal killer shows up and the butchering begins.
I don’t want to give too much away because this is seriously one of the best films of the year, but let’s just say any movie that includes a shower scene, female masturbation, and a severed head performing oral sex in the first five minutes followed by 80 minutes of blood and heart-thumping fear has got my vote. High Tension indeed. Striking French actress Cecile de France turns in a blood-chilling performance of pure terror while director Alexandre Aja stays true to the horror genre while adding some innovative camera work and great use of shadow to create a violent, terrifying masterpiece. High Tension is not for sissies, but neither is Halloween. Especially not in this town. (Axe handle not included.)
AT VILLAGE 8 Oct. 28-Nov. 3: Legend of Zorro; Doom; Elizabethtown; North Country; History of Violence; Dreamer; Wallace and Grommit; Saw 2 . On Tuesday, Nov. 1 Elizabethtown and Wallace and Grommit are replaced by Heights as part of the Village 8 Fall Film Series.
AT RAINBOW THEATRE Oct. 28-Nov. 3: Waiting.