This movie put French horror on the map. This level of viciousness and gore had not yet been seen in contemporary horror. Saw, Hostel, and Hatchet were yet to be conceived. Director, Alexandre Aja, said he “made this film as a homage to the old-school horror films of the 70’s and 80’s” (quote from IMDb). And luckily, we have been seeing a lot more of this horror film inspiration in recent years.
Normally I don’t like dubbed foreign films. I prefer the real thing for more authenticity. But this dubbed version doesn’t bother me so much. I like that they give the actresses French accents. Besides, there really isn’t much dialogue after the first 15 minutes anyway.
As for the NC-17 rating, I think it could have been rated R. Though there are a couple scenes that could warrant a NC-17 rating- especially the opening scene introducing the greasy trucker killer receiving fellatio from a decapitated corpse head.
The plot is pretty straight forward (excluding the mind-blowing conclusion). College student, Alex takes her friend, Marie to visit her family in her hometown. Instead of a relaxing weekend, the family and two girls suffer the brutal attacks (and for most, death) of this unknown trucker. But what I think makes this a really special film is the seemingly methodical pleasure the trucker seeks from killing. Before the twist is revealed, the trucker seems to have no apparent motive for murdering these people besides the pure desire and act of killing itself. There is no method to his madness, which is the scariest part of all.
The kills are so gruesome and memorable. Once seen, these bloody images are forever imbedded in the brain. The special effects are quite fantastic and realistic. I was particularly scarred by the head smashing and throat carving scenes. There is so much blood. What makes this different from other horror films is the way the camera does not let you look away from the violence. The camera stays on the dying until the very end, until you see the life slip away from their eyes. It’s hard to forget a shock like that.
As we endure each hideous and horrific murder, the final blow bubbles to the surface, capping off a slasher nightmare. I know this twist has caused a lot of controversy- some people love it and some people hate it. It is fun to watch this one multiple times and pick up on all the hints. I, for one, don’t mind that there is not a lot of character development; and yes, there are a lot of plot holes. But this is about sheer terror. It’s as simple as that. This will be a movie that people talk about for decades to come, whether good or bad. The title of this film is perfect. The tension exceedingly builds and grabs ahold of you from the beginning and doesn’t let go until the very end.