Production Company: Alexandre Films, EuropaCorp
Director: Alexandre Aja
Writer: Alexandre Aja, Gregory Levasseur
It’s most likely audiences will know Alexandre Aja for his 2006 remake of Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes, which was a hit with horror fans for updating the horror classic while also pushing some serious taste boundaries. However, before his move to American cinema, Aja turned heads with his own original film, Switchblade Romance back in 2003.
Switchblade Romance appears at first to be the spawn of the classic slasher genre. A short flash-forward at the start tells you straight away that something nasty is going to happen, and then you are taken back to the present, where two girls are driving to a house somewhere in the rural parts of France. It all seems pretty standard.
And yet this is Aja’s best trick. He lures the audience in with the expected horror tropes, and then once the violence begins, it feels almost unwelcome.
The graphic violence in the film is one of the elements which sets it apart from the many other horror movies of the time. It’s not so-called ‘torture porn’, but it takes gore more seriously than the teen slasher movies of the 90s only a few years previously.
The real reason to put Switchblade Romance on your watchlist though, is the ending. There is a significant twist at the end of the film (which I won’t ruin) and it continues to divide horror fans.
I do find the ending, and therefore the overall concept of the film, quite troubling. Aja clearly links the violence in the film with sexuality, especially as the arrival of the killer coincides with the arrival of a female orgasm. What doesn’t seem clear is why.
After reaching the end of the film you may well want to watch it again to better understand how it all fits together, but having seen the film a handful of times, it does just seem to make less and less sense.
The soundtrack only aids in enhancing the weirdness, and Muse chimes out more than once during the film, but feels out of place. The film would benefit from a more unknown score which would more easily suit Marie’s character.
In terms of acting, De France is present in the majority of scenes in the film as Marie and does a decent enough job of looking scared or acting tough. It’s not a memorable performance but it’s pleasant as she doesn’t overact at crucial points. Maiwenn is a more natural actress but isn’t given nearly as much screen time.
Switchblade Romance is a film I would certainly recommend to horror fans, and I think it is an important film to see so you can form your own opinion. If anything, you can discuss the ending for hours and decide whether it seems justified by the rest of the film, and whether ultimately the killer’s identity is actually quite an uncomfortable statement to be made.
There’s no denying Aja can direct a horror film, and if you don’t care about the rest of it, it’s still a nasty little French gore-fest.