Directed by Alexandre Aja, starring Cécile De France, Maiwenn Le Besco and Philippe Nahon.

Following the success of 'Halloween', and with the explosion of the home video market, the 1980s represented a golden age (well, of sorts) for slasher movies. Every week, it seemed, there was another reason to stay in on a Friday night, eat frozen pizza and shave years off the life of the pause button on your video.

And, like all its best villains, the genre was to come back from the dead and into the multiplex with Wes Craven's 'Scream'. But its style and knowing humour were followed by a succession of shoddy films like 'I Know What You Did Last Summer', 'Urban Legend' and their even lamer sequels. If slasher fans feel they've had little to get excited about on the big screen in years, then they're in for a treat with this bloody and warped French film.

The plot adheres to that core old school slasher value: simplicity. College students Marie and Alex (De France and Le Besco) head to Alex's rural family home to study for their exams and are terrorised by a razor-wielding killer (Nahon) who wipes out the family and takes Alex captive. There's little build-up, just straight terror and from our first sighting of Nahon in his dirty boilersuit, the tension is relentless.

Director Alexandre Aja and co-writer Grégory Levasseur know the classics and there are nods to both 'Halloween' and 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre'. They're also determined to show up just how safe most big studio American horrors are: here the deaths are very grisly and the humour non-existent. One great set piece follows another and, as the night of terror wears on, it looks like 'Switchblade Romance' will join the ranks of horror classics by the dawn.

But then comes the ending. With an infuriating nonchalance, Aja presents a twist that will either see you storm out in disgust or searching for the lower half of your jaw on the cinema floor. An audacious finale, yes; the perfect one, no. At least it doesn't seem to leave much room for a sequel.

For those who like gore with their scares, 'Switchblade Romance' is a must. But anyone who was frightened by 'Scream' be warned: this is an entirely different proposition.

Harry Guerin