Friday, June 29, 2007

Haute Blood Pressure

I've been meaning to watch Haute Tension for quite some time now, but I just hadn't gotten around to it for one reason or another (IE, not in the mood, it wasn't on tv at the time, didn't want to pay the rental fee, etc.) I noticed it was on last night, and I was up for some hacking and slashing, so I settled in. (There's gonna be spoilers in this post, I'm warning you now.)

I had a general idea of what the movie was about-2 friends go on a trip and they get some nut after them. I also knew about the big twist ending, but I figured that since I was expecting it, it wouldn't be such a surprise and the movie wouldn't piss me off like it did practically everyone else.

That was the plan anyway.

The movie starts with Alex and Marie, 2 college friends, traveling to Alex's family's gorgeous home in the French countryside for a study vacation. You get the idea that Alex is sort of the flirty, floozy girly type, and Marie, well, isn't. They get to the house, settle in, have dinner, blahdy, blahdy, blah. The family goes to bed and then a couple things happen that gives you the slight impression that maybe, perhaps Marie kinda, sorta has a thing for Alex (translation: she peeks at her while she's in the shower and then goes off to masturbate. Subtle.)

While Marie is busying herself, a man shows up at the house in a truck that he apparently stole from the Jeepers Creepers guy and knocks on the front door. (Oh yeah, I almost left out the part about the brief scene earlier in the movie, which consisted of the guy sitting in the JC truck, felating himself with a woman's decapitated head. He then chucked the head out the window and drove off. Such a gentleman.) Alex's dad answers the door, and the slaughter commences. Marie witnesses the initial assault on the dad, and manages to find a hiding place. Alex's mother and young brother aren't so lucky, and Alex herself arguably gets the worst of the man's aggression, chained to her bed, gagged, brutalized and raped-but not killed.

At this point in the movie (about 30 minutes in), I thought to myself "Hmm, this is a lot like that Dean Koontz book, Intensity." Now, I'm loathe to spoil any aspect of Intensity, because while it's not the BEST book I've ever read, it's probably the one book that managed to utterly and totally cause me to crap my pants, so I have an affinity for it. In the book, Chyna, a college student and a survivor of childhood abuse, joins her friend Laura at her family's house for Thanksgiving. While she's there a man breaks into the house, kills Laura's family, chains Laura up, rapes her, all the while Chyna hides in the house, waiting for an opportunity to save her friend and escape.

So yeah, you can see how the 2 stories have a lot in common, and if the similarities had ended there, I wouldn't even mention it. The thing is, up until the ending, the ENTIRE MOVIE is a blatant rip-off of Intensity (if you want a basis for comparison without reading the book, hunt down a copy of the miniseries starring Molly Parker and John C. McGinley. It's not on DVD though, but I do have a copy on VHS in my storeroom somewhere. I know that doesn't help any of you much, I'm just sayin'.)

When I say 'blatant rip-off', it's not hyperbole. I've seen plenty of films that contain homages, for lack of a better word, to other source material, but it's usually just one scene, so it's acceptable in some instances. But Haute Tension is made up entirely (minus the ending, which, I know I'm in the minority here, but I kind of liked the twist) of the first half of Intensity. In addition to what I've already covered:

-In both stories, the killer kidnaps the daughter, while the friend stows away in his vehicle (JC truck in HT, Winnebago in Intensity.)

-In both stories, the killer stops at a gas station while the friend tries to hide from him until she can get help. And in both stories, the gas station attendent doesn't fare very well.

-And in both stories, the friend swipes a car so she can catch the killer and rescue her friend (actually, in Intensity her friend was already a lost cause, and she was after him for another reason, but I've said too much already.)

Take away the shock ending, and that is the sum total of Haute Tension: someone else's story. I'm not a huge Dean Koontz fan-aside from Intensity, I've never cared much for his work-so I'm not freaking out over some sense of fan loyalty, it's my time that I care about. I admit, I'm selfish with my time, because I don't have that much of it for myself. I rarely get to watch movies lately, and since I love film as much as I do, when I DO get to watch something, I want it to count, you know? I'm not saying every movie I watch has to be great, far from it, but I don't want it to be something that wastes my time, nor something that offends me.

And Haute Tension did both. It didn't offend me because of the misogyny, the homophobia, or the violence-it was the plagiarism. Ignore Haute Tension and go read Intensity instead: It's better, scarier and more importantly, it's original.