The story focuses on two college girls, Marie and Alex. They travel to Alex's parents farmhouse in a remote part of the French countryside for a weekend of intense study. The first night they're there, a serial killer shows up at the front door and immediately kills Alex's father, mother and little brother. Alex is taken captive by the killer and placed in his truck/van. Marie escapes the killer by keeping her presence in the house hidden. She manages to get into the van with Alex and the two girls are spirited away into the night.
Thus begins a tense, suspenseful game of cat-and-mouse as Marie tries to kill the killer and free her friend. All goes well until a third act narrative twist that I never saw coming. The twist completely derails the film and had me scratching my head for the rest of the day and most of the next. I have nothing against plot twists but they need to make sense. This one doesn't and is never adequately explained to clear up the confusion it creates.
Spoiler warning: the twist is that Marie herself is the killer and the male serial killer is a persona created within her mind. Marie is a jealous, jilted lover of Alex and she wants Alex all for herself. This could have worked if there had been a bit more expository dialogue from someone (as in the last scene of PSYCHO) that explains all of this. As it is, it's a twist for the sake of throwing the viewer a curve and it just doesn't work.
Other than that, the film is well made, with good production values. However, it's one of the most relentlessly brutal, sadistic and depraved movies I've ever seen. I usually don't mind violence in films but there were several instances in HIGH TENSION that made me seriously consider turning the thing off. It's extremely graphic gore and the entire movie is just unpleasant and difficult to watch. Some younger fans may enjoy this kind of film but I much prefer something a little less intense.
I can't recommend this one. Thumbs down.