"Love hurts, Love scars, Love wounds and mars"--Nazareth At the behest of several horror bloggers I finally got up the gumption ...
High (Sexual) Tension: Homicidal Lesbianism in Haute Tension
On an aesthetic level, High Tension warrants the high praise it’s been given at home and abroad. The film is beautifully shot, creepily atmospheric and gave me the first genuine thrill I’ve had in months. The movie starts out with Marie and Alexia, classmates traveling to the secluded country home of Marie’s parents for a quiet weekend of studying for college exams. But their plans are interrupted by a psychotic truck driver, who invades Marie’s home and kick starts a night of endless terror.
(If you don’t know the twist, turn back now! Spoilers and analysis to follow)
In a twist ending no one could see coming Director Alexandre Aja reveals that the “killer” has been Alexia all along. Aja puts a new and innovative spin on the trope of final-girl-as-killer that started, however campily, with Sleepaway Camp. Looking at the DVD cover we see Alexia exhausted, covered in blood and wounds, wielding a buzz saw. This image fits into our familiar conception of the final girl, who after hours of struggle and flight uses the killer’s own weapon to defeat him. Alexia also fits the physical image of the final girl to a tee. Her butch haircut and athletically skinny frame are a start contrast to the softer, more feminine Marie. Even her name, Alexia, is a derivative of the masculine “Alex”.
The “killer” achieves this end by decapitating the father, slitting the mother’s throat and shooting the little brother. Aja stages these scenes ingeniously as the action switches between Alexia and the killer, giving the feeling of both remoteness and nearness. She is there but not there, a fitting description of her mental state as the “killer” takes over to do the dirty work.
Like this video, High Tension suggests that there something masculine and downright homicidal about lesbian desire. This can be seen as the killer pursues Marie as she crawls away from the scene of yet another murder. “You drive a woman crazy. You little slut.” the Killer admonishes, wagging his phallic saw in her face. The scene is reminiscent of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, where Stretch does a bump and grind with Leatherface’s chainsaw to avoid being hacked to pieces, as Marie desperately cries out “Je t'aime!” to escape a buzz saw to the face. The Killer’s dialogue is also like that of a man justifying sexual violence against the unwilling object of his desire.
It looks like love does hurt.
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