(2003)3.5Jason BuchananA relentless, stalk-and-slash fright-fest with a heart-pounding pace as brutal as its husky, truck-driving killer, French director Alexandre Aja's gory sophomore feature will no doubt please fear junkies in search of a truly visceral horror experience. Aja keeps thinks viciously organic by eschewing the current CG-obsession by employing the brutally realistic effects of makeup-effects artist Giannetto De Rossi (a favorite of late gore meister Lucio Fulci) -- an asset that makes the violence all the more disturbing and realistic. Of course, with a film that moves as fast as Haute Tension, there's little time for such distractions as character development or dialogue, but -- as is rarely the case in many similar films -- viewers will never doubt the actions taken by the killer's tough-as-nails prey. Much has been said regarding Haute Tension's love-it-or-hate-it "surprise" twist, and while it seems as if Aja and co-screenwriter Gregory Levasseur at least attempt to remain faithful to the revelation, even dropping an occasional hint for the savvy viewer, the awkward revelation may ultimately derail the entire endeavor for less forgiving viewers. There may be little new here for those who follow the genre, but by keeping the pacing tight and the squirm factor high, Aja has crafted a lean, mean, and unrelentingly tense film that quickly grabs the viewer by the throat and doesn't loosen its grip until the credits scroll.