Monday, February 15, 2010

Female Villains in Horror: Marie (Haute Tension)

Haute Tension (High Tension here in the states, a.k.a. Switchblade Romance elsewhere) is one messed up, convoluted movie. If you haven't seen it, well then I'm sorry for ruining it for you by announcing Marie as a villain. But at the beginning of these women in horror posts I believe I warned you about *spoilers*...

The first time I saw this film I was absolutely shocked by the ending. Then I was pissed. Then I watched it again. There are so many gaffes and missteps within the 90 minute odyssey that it could ruin the film entirely for you if you were extra-picky.
I however, am really not.

At first, you consider Marie to be nothing other than a run-of-the-mill best friend type of character. She's caught halfway between seeming like a pixie to being somewhat butch.

Marie and her friend Alex are catching up on some studying at Alex's family farmhouse out in east bumfuck. It's late, and everyone is off to bed. Marie heads to the attic guest room for some self-gratification to reggae tunes.

Then the murders occur and the action amps up. Marie hears the commotion from her upstairs hideaway and goes to investigate. Somehow, she manages to escape with her life, and of course at that point you're thinking she must be the final girl.

Ah, but wait... All is not what it seems.

Marie's obvious mental issues are placed prominently in your face during the last fifteen minutes, as she declares her love for Alex (her female friend whose house she was visiting) and the realization hits you that Marie is the killer, having brutally killed Alex's parents and anyone else who stood in her way.

But the utter confusion of the plot holes that abound do make it difficult to figure everything out. And believe me, you really won't.

But what you do come to comprehend is that Marie is one sick individual. Besides disemboweling (with a huge concrete saw no less!) a hapless victim trying to drive Alex away from the scene at the end, we reach the realization that she decapitated Alex's father with a hulkingly large bookcase, slit open her mother's throat, killed the younger brother with a shotgun, murdered the poor store clerk...and then in a strange moment of (our own) disorientation, she kills the 'killer'.

Hmm.. yeah.
Like I said, plot holes.

We see her kill the madman with a barbed wire pole and suffocation by plastic over the face. So what's the deal? That was all imagined in Marie's head? Or our own?

After watching it a number of times, I'm really no further along in determining just what the hell happened. I just cannot wrap my head around it.
But Cécile de France was terrific in the role, the gore is decent, and the whole film has a certain gritty appeal to it.
And Marie.... a villain of bloody good proportions.

Buy it here.

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


Anonymous said...

You do point out most of the problems, the film has, but I'm still not sure if Marie can be considered a villain - after all, we never really know whether she really did kill all these people (and in the way shown to us) and, assuming she did indeed kill them, if she's aware of this. If she isn't, I wouldn't consider her a villain, resp. consider her "imaginary killer" as the main villain, similar to how you listed "mother" as the main villain in Psycho.

Sarah from Scare Sarah said...

I dunno... She did it alright. The flashbacks at the end...she does have a realisation of what happened for sure.

My only bugbear is the fact her alterego is a dirty creepy old man. Surely lesbians should have something less butch?

I thought it was a very clever film but then I only saw it once!

Sarah from Scare Sarah said...

And the decapitation with the banisters and the sideboard! Awesome!

Anonymous said...

I agree that we're probably supposed to think she did it, but that creates so many plotholes that it really makes far more sense to assume that her memories are still unreliable.

Eve Hill said...