Alexandre Aja speaks!
MovieWeb talks to director of the forthcoming splat-bonanza High Tension and The Hills Have Eyes remake!
(Note: We must issue another "Paulington F'd-up the Surprise!" warning. We here at Movieweb hate ruining movies more than anyone else on the planet. We don't want to be the one's giving away the ending, or destroying the unanticipated climax for you. But, sometimes, in order to discuss a work of art properly, you have to delve into topics that shouldn't be revealed until after you've seen the film. So, go to the theater, pay the twelve bucks, then come back and read these ten amazing questions. It's all worth it. Trust us. High Tension rocks the kidney stones out of every infected bladder! Actually, Paulington really didn't give too much away. On second thought, go ahead and read it.)
High Tension is one of the slickest, smartest slasher exposes I've seen in quite some time. It takes its genre seriously, and refuses to play out the coy joke. This tight, slim package moves at such a quick clip, we never have time to think about what we'd actually do in this same situation. The pacing hits at lightening bolt speed, and leaves little time to actually scream at the screen. "Don't do that! Don't open that! Don't go in there!" If we are given a moment to think, "Don't go in there!" The heroine doesn't go in there. She does what we, as real human beings, would do. Which brings an odd aura to the piece. We can't really get mad at Marie (played by Cecile De France). All we're able to do is stare at that projected light and think, "Damn! If that was me up there, I'd be dead already. Bravo hot girl in the tight t-shirt!"
I was recently awarded the opportunity to speak with the director of High Tension, the amazing Alexandre Aja. Here's what he had to say from himself...
Paulington: Hello, Sir! How are you?
Aja: Good, good, good!
Paulington: The first thing I want to say is that the movie's awesome! Which I'm sure you already know, since you've seen the response to it from all around the World. What I want to know is; are there any subjects you'd consider too taboo that you'd never want to explore on film?
Aja: In High Tension, or in another movie?
Paulington: In general.
Aja: I don't know. I never thought about that. I'm more about, like, trying to find a story. And then explore. I never had a chance to work with people or a producer who wouldn't let me go as far as I wanted. But...I don't know. Maybe I'm more interested in a specific kind of movie. Something that is a survival story. An engine. I tend to be on the side of the hunted. Maybe I don't want to be on the side of the serial killer. But maybe High Tension is on the side of the serial killer. Yet, at the same time, it is on the side of the victim. I don't have a clear answer for that.
Paulington: When the Killer first comes into the house, the main girl, Marie, is upstairs masturbating. What is the parallel you are trying to draw between masturbation and murder? Is killing an entire family Marie's sexual, masturbatory fantasy? (This question will make more sense once you've seen and understand the ending of the film.)
Aja: No, I think, when she is masturbating, she is thinking more about a friend. Or thinking about someone else. In a very editing way, she is also calling the cure from the night. I think she is reliving something. Also, she is probably getting this from the Hospital room. I'm sorry for my bad English. Let me rephrase that. She is feeling the way that she would have liked the story to happen. So, she is rewriting the story. She wanted to be masturbating when he arrived.
Paulington: I would like to know what it says on the back of the killer's jumper.
Aja: It says...God; I have to remember that...It says Aja en Motors, which is like a fake trade of garage people, or a garage place...
Paulington: So, the killer is a mechanic?
Aja: A mechanic, yeah.
Paulington: Can you tell me how that plays into the subconscious nature of Marie?
Aja: For me, I think the killer is the projection of what she imagines as a killer. You see what I mean? She's telling the story, and she's talking about this guy that comes and massacres all of the family. The killer she is talking about is kind of a repetition of the killer we are used to seeing. Kind of an on-the-road serial killer going from one house to another, studying and slitting people. So, everything goes in the way she has imagined it. He's greasy, his weight, he is what you think of when you think of a serial killer.
Paulington: There has been a lot of speculation, since audiences in the States aren't too familiar with your film, about what got cut out of the US version, and what exact scenes where edited.
Aja: I've been fortunate with doing this type of movie. When we started High Tension, we set out to make a tribute to all the other horror movies, and all those things that scared us in our youth. We are really trying to speak to that core audience, too. The people going to this movie are expecting a lot of blood. And we were very against the idea of cutting the movie. Because, why cut the movie if it's supposed to be like that? We had a very bad experience with Korea, where we had to cut the movie so, so, so down in a strange way. They cut like seven minutes, or eight minutes without any logical points. It's crazy. We were very against that. Then the Lion's Gate people came and said, "You know, we love the movie, and we'd like to release the movie wider than just a few screens. Because, if we release it NC-17, then it will just go to very few theaters. Maybe we can go back to the MPAA and getting an R rating for the film." And it ended up being almost nothing. Less than one minute was cut. There's maybe 45 seconds of a shot that has been cut. Nothing else. I was surprised, because watching this new version was exactly the same.
Paulington: So, just a little bit of the gore got cut out?
Paulington: A little bit of the blood, that's all that was cut out?
Aja: Yeah. Exactly. That's it. And the movie's exactly the same. I'm just so happy that Lion's Gate got the MPAA to change their minds. That they changed the NC-17 rating with just a few cuts. Which is really nothing.
Paulington: The end chase scene...I felt this was an ode to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Aja: Yeah, of course.
Paulington: Have you seen the remake, and is this your response to the remake?
Aja: No, both movies were made at the same time. I mean, the movie we did in France, in 2003.
Paulington: So you hadn't seen the Texas Chainsaw remake at that time?
Aja: No, the movie was shot during the summer of 2002. That is very interesting, because the movie came out in France in June of 2003. Then, the Chainsaw remake was released six months after it was released in the US, and we went to see the movie. High Tension was a tribute to Chainsaw Massacre, too. When we saw the remake, we thought it was funny, because were trying to do the same thing. We were trying to resurrect the spirit of the 70s. In this situation, we wanted a very nasty, savage, grueling kind of movie. And watching the other film was a big surprise.
Paulington: I thought yours was a way better ode to the original than what the remake did. I know you guys are huge fans of that original film, so I thought you were trying to one-up the remake. But you're saying both films were made at the same time?
Aja: Well, yeah. It's funny, because here, with the Texas Chainsaw remake, the scene where the girl gets chased at the end got censored, and ours didn't. We were trying to make a tribute with spirit.
Paulington: Are you worried, that once this comes out in America, with so many people having complaints about everything nowadays, that the Gay and Lesbian organizations will have a problem with your movie?
Aja: Well, that's something, when we were showing this movie in Europe, that we didn't have to explain. Because, I don't know how you can see this movie as something against gay and lesbian people. It's not about that. It's really a friendship, love story. It's really something that is going against my understanding. I think the first time someone brought this up was in Sundance. I was so surprised, because for me, it's really the opposite.
Paulington: I think here, in this culture, people are more sensitive. They like to complain about everything.
Aja: Yeah. I‘m still learning about American Culture, and it's sometimes strange.
Publicist: Okay, Paul, last question...
Paulington: Okay, last question. Is Micheal Berryman (the iconic baldheaded mutant that appears on the Video box) going to be in your remake of the Hills Have Eyes?
Aja: No. I have to say no. We thought about that. And we tried. We would have liked that, but at the same time, it would be hard to make a remake of The Hills Have Eyes with Michael Berryman. That's too much like the original movie.
Paulington: Do you have someone that's going to replace him?
Paulington: Do you have somebody that is going to replace him?
Aja: We are working on all new characters.
Paulington: Can you tell me who you've hired to replace him?
Aja: No, no, I can't do that. We are finishing casting right now, and I don't want to give too much information away.
Paulington: Okay, well, great.
Aja: Thank you, Paulington. Bye.