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Ranking Alexandre Aja Films 1-9

I've been a movie enthusiast my whole life and been writing movie reviews for over 15 years.

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French director Alexandra Aja is primarily known for his horror movies. He’s attempted a couple of movies outside his usual genre with varying degrees of success. Here are Alexandre Aja’s films ranked 1-9.

Shear terror.

Shear terror.

1. High Tension (2003)

Worst “quiet” weekend getaway ever. BFFs Marie (Cecile De France) and Alex (Maiwenn) decide to spend some solitary time at an isolated farmhouse. Their seclusion is short-lived as they’re targeted by a killer with nothing else to do but terrorize them and everyone around them. Best laid plans and all. Relentless in its violence and gore, Aja’s second movie caught the attention of horror fans all around the world in 2003. From chainsaws to straight razors, no body part is left unsevered, no piece of land not turned blood-red. Does the twist ending make any sense? Nope, but it doesn’t really take away from the impact of the movie. If you like a heaping of carnage to break your idyll, then keep the tension high and your plastic sheets at the ready. Aja’s best movie is not for the faint of anything.

ranking-alexandre-aja-films-1-9

2. The Hills Have Eyes (2006)

Aja’s remake of the Wes Craven horror classic is better than it has any right to be, and in some ways it stands on its own. The basic premise is the same (unsuspecting family has vacation interrupted by mutant cannibals—you hate it when that happens) but Aja’s execution keeps you off balance. The mutants (sorry, mutant cannibals) are a wonderfully terrible sight to see onscreen as the upgraded makeup and practical effects make for maximum shock and gross out value (specifically the, um, “milk” scene). Much gorier than the original even if it's 80% as scary. The only real weakness is Aaron Stanford’s strangely inert lead performance. Points for having Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine) in the cast. Maybe you shouldn’t go on vacations in an Alexandre Aja movie.

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3. Crawl (2019)

Crawl has Florida in a deadly storm and hungry killer alligators. It's such a simple premise mined for maximum fun and terror. It also manages to be a family movie as a father (Barry Pepper) and a daughter (Kaya Scoledario) strengthen their hereditary bond as they try not to get mutilated or killed by gators gone wild. Aja stages well executed scenes of high tension (the shower!) and provides enough gore that never feels exploitative. For most of the 90-minute running time, you are on the edge of your seat hoping the dog makes it okay.

ranking-alexandre-aja-films-1-9

4. Oxygen (2021)

Alexandre Aja’s foray into sci-fi/thriller realm has Melanie Laurent waking up in a cryogenic chamber only to realize she will run out of oxygen in 90 minutes. She can’t remember who she is or how she got in this predicament. The single location isn’t as much of a hindrance for the viewer as one might initially suspect. With minimal gore, Aja wrings suspense in this very effective one-hander from Netflix. The central mystery is more than enough to keep you involved, and the ending comes as a genuine surprise. A solid stretch from Aja. Be sure to breathe while you watch this.

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5. Piranha 3D (2010)

Offsetting a lot of the carnage with its tongue in its hollowed out cheek, Piranha 3D makes for the Back to the Future Part II reunion you never knew you wanted. Like Crawl, Piranha 3D makes no bones about the type of movie it wants to be, and there’s no denying it does what it sets out to do. From the Jaws homage in the opening scene to Hostel director Eli Roth's cameo, Piranha 3D is the closest thing to a horror comedy Alexandre Aja has done so far. You want killer piranhas? You get killer piranhas. A lot of them. You want underwater synchronized swimming? Probably not, but you will like it like this. Too bad the trailer and some of the movie’s marketing campaign ruined the ending.

ranking-alexandre-aja-films-1-9

6. Horns (2013)

Based on the excellent horror novel by Joe Hill, Horns is a muted adaptation at best. Yes, there are some solid one-liners, a lot of blood and some gore, but you get the feeling the movie could have been pushed a lot further into a lot darker territory considering the source material. Daniel Radcliffe (taking over for Shia LeBeouf) is slightly miscast as he can’t quite convey the main character Ig’s much darker side. You spend a good portion of the movie staying in one emotional state, not a great feeling for a horror movie. Watchable, but should have been so much better.

ranking-alexandre-aja-films-1-9

7. Furia (1999)

Alexandre Aja’s debut film is a post-apocalyptic anti-establishment romantic drama with elements of science fiction featuring the music of Brian May. That’s a lot to take in, and even if it isn’t entirely successful, there’s enough to like that you could see Aja’s potential as a director. You’re never bored, but you’re also never really moved as the movie whipsaws between tone. The movie features future Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard in one of her first major roles. For a first movie, Aja could have done a lot worse.

ranking-alexandre-aja-films-1-9

8. Mirrors (2008)

Mirrors wastes a very good performance by Kiefer Sutherland by being gory without actually being scary. There are opportunities for some well rendered scares, but Aja merely provides the carnage without any real context or emotion behind what’s happening. It’s a rather empty exercise that you give up on 30 minutes into the running time. This is a remake of a Korean film that makes you want to see the original instead of sitting through this turgid affair anymore than you have to. Aja seems to lose a lot of the terror in translation. Don’t bother looking into these Mirrors. You won’t like what’s reflected back at you. An exercise in tedium and a step back considering it was the follow-up to The Hills Have Eyes.

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9. The 9th Life of Louis Drax (2016)

Last and definitely least. Alexandre Aja’s venture away from horror is a fantasy/thriller about a young boy (Aiden Longworth) suffering an almost fatal fall and the doctor (Jamie Dornan) assigned to help him. Lit and paced like a children’s film, Aja doesn’t seem to know what kind of movie Drax wants to be. The audience is mostly kept in the dark as the first half of the movie doesn’t watch the second half in terms of tone and who the main character is. You can see the twist coming from 30 minutes in. There are too many balls in the air and Aja drops every one of them eventually. Don’t waste your life on The 9th Life.

Overall

Alexandra Aja remains one of the premiere horror directors and one of the prime members of the Splat Pack. Be sure to revisit most of his nine films.

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