Thursday, September 2

High Tension (Haute tension) (2003) - 2010 Lionsgate Unrated Blu-ray

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I have a neat little relationship with Alexandre Aja's Haute tension. On a complete whim and without knowing anything about the film prior, I ordered it on DVD from South Korea re-titled "X-tension". This edition ended up being edited of several minutes (had no idea of this at the time), but was the first home video release even ahead of the French disc. I then wrote this review for HorrorTalk.com; which might have very well been the first published in English. Afterward, word of mouth spread until the film became the "it" horror import for quite sometime. It's always something special and rare discovering a film before a flood of others.

Being #9 on my top ten of the last decade, I still love Aja's debut in spite of naysayers who bemoan the twist and its little inconsistencies. I'd honestly consider Haute tension to be a watershed genre moment on the order of Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. A fantastic melding between old slasher aesthetics and the unbridled possibilities of the "new" norms of the modern horror film. Incredibly directed, intelligent, violent, and bold. I also have yet to see a horror film since, and quite some time prior, that utilizes its integral aural component to strengthen its imagery so damn well. Simply one hell of a calling card that Aja and Levasseur have pleasingly followed through on. Well...aside from the derailed, Jack Baue...Kiefer Sutherland-fueled Mirrors.

Since this Blu-ray is a Best Buy exclusive until October 5th, I figured I'd scan the cover (click for large rez as always) and share some thoughts for those curious after watching it last night. First off, this disc has all of the extras found on Lionsgate's DVD, but is missing the short introduction from Aja and Levasseur. The 1080p, MPEG-4 AVC-encoded 2.35:1 transfer is solid, but very bittersweet. Haute tension was obviously subjected to extensive tinkering in digital post-production to achieve the film's current stylized appearance. Crushed blacks, extremely boosted color, and blown out contrast levels rule the day.

That's not to say this Blu-ray's picture quality is worse than the standard def discs; however, don't expect the kind of detail/color difference usually seen when shifting from standard to high definition. It does look better in terms of stability, especially on large projection displays, but it's not too much better than the DVD edition (esp. the French PAL) on a good upscaling player at 42" to 60". Fortunately, LG provides a full blown, aggressive-as-hell lossless French DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track that's as good as it gets. The included English Master Audio 5.1 dub sounds weak and distant in comparison. The annoying mix of dubtitles/real subtitles, like the prior DVD, are white and in Blu's easier-to-read high resolution. Considering this Blu-ray is only $7.99 at Best Buy right now, the barn-burning sound quality is worth that alone.
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1 comment:

J. Astro said...

I loooove the shit outta this movie, and have no patience for people who try to think too hard and try to pick apart the ending. I considered it on Blu-ray today, the very same $7.99 Best Buy deal you talked about here. I opted instead for the OPEN WATER/OPEN WATER 2: ADRIFT Blu, for sheer values' sake, but I may have to reconsider and go grab this one anyway.

...do you dare tread upon the staircase?
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