Warning Spoilers Ahead!
Progress can be seen here with the inclusion and development of queer characters and in this case, queer couples in the horror genre.
As the first article in my Devilish Month column, I’ll cover two harrowing tales of toxic relationship madness that unfold in Southern France and Canada. The films, High Tension and What Keeps You Alive present a common terror of women who realize their partner is a serial killer and must survive their psychotic grasp. Her journey becomes a hunting game that examines toxic relationships and, in this case, same-sex relationships that are put at the front of this frightening experience.
High Tension (2003) is written by Alexander Aja and Gregory Levasseur and also directed by Alexander Aja. Best friends Marie (Cecile de France) and Alexia (Maiween) are traveling to Alexia’s family home in Southern France for vacation. With welcoming hands at their arrival, Marie feels good to be with her best friend. More so, Marie experiences a series of intimate feelings towards Alexia, but she is about to experience a truly different kind of feeling. Pure extreme terror arrives at night when a madman truck driver invades the house and kills every family member except for Alexia and Marie.
Hiding in the most uncomfortable of places, Marie successfully escapes the killer’s grasp, but not Alexia. As Marie sees Alexia being tied and kidnapped by the killer, a relentless pursuit drives Marie to rescue Alexia. As the tension grows, so does the uncomfortable truth behind the killer’s random motivations. Motivations that examine Marie’s feelings for Alexia which have escalated into a toxic situation. Nevertheless, High Tension is a remarkable and unsettling must-watch horror film for this Halloween season. With all the gore and tense moments, toxic relationships are surely a terrifying scenario that sees how far a loved one will go to protect the one they care for.
What Keeps You Alive (2018) is written and directed by Colin Minihan which takes place in an isolated cottage in Canada. At the cottage, Jackie (Hannah Emily Anderson) and Jules (Brittany Allen) celebrate their one-year anniversary as a married couple. Seemingly believing they are in a happy place; it later slowly turns into a hunting game for Jules. Jules begins encountering secret details of Jackie’s childhood which upsets her until the moment when Jackie pushes Jules off a cliff. Miraculously surviving, Jules races against time to survive a hunter – Jackie and her training ground. Amid trials and errors, Jules uncovers more of Jackie’s past which prompts her to psychologically battle with her wife.
On the other side, Jackie’s murderous intent escalates to more murders that seem to be part of her life. This explains her goal: kill her wife and anyone who stands in her way. Ultimately, the real winner is the smartest animal whose survival instincts that are a top priority. This film is highly recommended to watch during the Halloween season due to it being a hunting type terror based on isolation that unfortunately is ever prevalent in these times. Additionally, this is a must-see for queer horror fans where the inclusion of a queer couple is not entirely based on their sexual orientation. Instead, it places the couple in a terrifying situation that can happen to anyone.
Ultimately, both films unleash a batch of macabre killings and intense conversations. We learn the motivations behind the killers in these films and how their partners try to defend themselves. We feel empathy towards these final girls who survive to tell their story. There are raw moments of violence, but there are tender moments of interaction. These two sides of relationship dynamics until they collide are impressive moments of relationship analysis. In a queer aspect, there are big differences in these films regarding the inclusion of queer characters and especially murderous queer characters.
What is important and remarkable is that the depicted relationships are similar to heterosexual couples. As such, the domestic horror theme can be applied to any couple regardless of their sexual orientation. Progress can be seen here with the inclusion and development of queer characters and in this case, queer couples in the horror genre. Nevertheless, High Tension and What Keeps You Alive are remarkable films for diving into the macabre territory of terrifying toxic relationships. Like I said before, a must-watch for the devilish month of October.
High Tension is available on Tubi and What Keeps You Alive is available on Netflix.