Review: Switchblade Romance
You drive a woman crazy. You little slut.
Switchblade Romance (or Haute tension as it’s known in France) is crap. I wish I could come up with a better way of describing my feelings towards it but I can’t. Most horror films I’ve seen go for the ‘jump in your seat’ scare but so often fail because they telegraph it so clearly. There’s a level of artifice that’s built into the genre and Switchblade is all artifice.
When two college friends, Marie (Cécile De France) and Alexa (Maïwenn), travel to the latter’s parent’s country house they encounter a mysterious killer who slaughters Alexia’s family in the middle of the night. Alexia is kidnapped and Marie gives chase to prevent the maniac from killing again.
There’s a whiff of Hitchcock’s Psycho and a visual nod to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and like the former Switchblade’s narrative is ultimately unsatisfying. The film hinges on a twist that’s stark raving mad and it completely destroys the film’s logic.
Perhaps that’s the point. It doesn’t stop the film from being a shallow and confusing attempt at misdirection. The resolution is meant to shock – unless you’re a horror fan who laps this sort of trick up, it’ll have the audience rubbing their eyes in disbelief.
There’s so little connecting tissue between what the audience sees at the end to the one we’re presented at the beginning that it’s too big a leap to fully accept. Although there’s a hint of some conflict, director Alexandre Aja (Piranha 3D) is probably too subtle, inserting a throwaway line that’s easily forgotten when the blood starts to gush. If given a decent build-up the twist could have worked. Instead it flails about in its own stupidity.
Even before the twist it’s all a bit preposterous, some moments appearing to be incredibly contrived just to keep the momentum going (the petrol station scene is daft and the twist just creates more problems for it).
If you’re a gore hound then Switchblade Romance has heads chopped off and limbs removed by the bucket load but everything happens with little reason. It isn’t suspenseful although it tries to be. It relies on a malignant, unexplained evil, hoping the presence of such a thing is enough to unsettle. I don’t buy it and I’m not enamoured by films that employ cheap tricks instead of intelligence. Switchblade Romance, with its schlocky, violent thrills that substitutes tension and character, is hard to like. Horror has little meaning if you don’t care for what’s happening.