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Fantastic Fest Review: High Lane

By  · Published on October 7th, 2010

Five friends decide to take a mountain climbing trip to Croatia, and as if that wasn’t already a questionable enough idea the group collectively neglects to prepare for every occasion. As in, what do you do if the only bridge off the mountain top collapses under the strain? What if the only one in the group who truly knows about the area disappears? What if your new boyfriend is a whiny douche? And most importantly, what happens if a vicious madman resembling a deformed and perturbed Rhys Ifans decides to start capturing, killing, and cutting up the group one by one?

High Lane, aka Vertige, is a thriller that moves from adventure to horror fairly quickly. The friends gather at the base of the Croatian mountain and plan their route, but when they find the path is closed for some reason the group’s defacto leader, Fred, finds a way up and around the blockade. He’s joined by his girlfriend, Karine, and three other friends. Chloe (Fanny Villette) and her beautiful breasts have brought along a new boyfriend named Luke, and the fifth wheel in all of this happens to be Chloe’s ex, William. Introductions complete, the friends head up the mountain where they find some stunning scenery, dangerous climbing conditions, petty jealousies, and a raving lunatic hungry for human flesh. So to sum up, High Lane is Cliffhanger meets Cold Prey meets some absolutely fantastic cleavage.

Director Abel Ferry isn’t reinventing the wheel here, and he never pretends to be. His model is clearly a mash-up of films like Wrong Turn, Wolf Creek, and the Norwegian thriller Cold Prey, and he succeeds at least in part. Working against him and his film though is a screenplay featuring at least one ridiculously annoying character, a villain with no clear motivation or reason to be, and a recurring series of flashbacks for one character that serve zero purpose. Other than these three issues the movie is a fast moving and fairly solid genre effort.

The strongest part of High Lane is the first third before Anton the crazy Croat enters the picture. The cinematography throughout the climbing sequences is fantastic, and pretty much every scene convinces that the action is really taking place high up in some frightening locations. Acrophobic viewers have been warned… one of the first obstacles the group faces is a thin rope bridge suspended high above the rocks. The crossing is squeezed for every possible ounce of tension and is then ramped up when the cabling starts to give way. It’s a well done scene and compares favorably to the opening of Cliffhanger. (Not quite as realistic as the one in Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls though…) Further mountain hi-jinx follow as the group splits into two. Three of them end up hanging precariously from a cliffside while the other two step into a world of hurt via a jagged-toothed bear trap. Ferry presents these two events simultaneously with the action, suspense, and music all working in unison to great effect.

But shortly after that bear trap slams shut so does the possibility of this being a kick ass entry into the survival horror genre. The beautiful wide shots of mountaintops and rocky cliffs are traded in for darkly lit interiors and close-ups. Luke, who has been a whiny bitch throughout the film thus far, takes it a step further and actually becomes a moron. He locks up one of the friends out of a combination of jealousy and idiocy… while the crazy cannibal is stalking them and chaining them up beside decapitated heads. Chloe continues to have nonsensical flashbacks to her working in a hospital unable to cut an air-hole into a suffocating boy’s throat. If only she could get past her distaste for stabbing into human flesh! Anton lacks much in teh way of explanation or development, but Ferry does make him very human by placing him in multiple scraps. At least the supposed victims don’t always go quietly and instead on more than one occasion take Anton to the mat with a few minutes worth of brutal fisticuffs. It’s a refreshing change from the usual invincible inbreds.

So is High Lane a journey worth taking? For fans of the genre the answer is an easy one… yes. It may not feature as many fun and gory effects as Wrong Turn, it may not include nudity like Cold Prey, and it may not star Michael Rooker like Cliffhanger, but it still manages to be an effective little shocker that will entertain even if it doesn’t impress. And at the very least, Chloe’s chestal region features some extremely appealing mountain peaks.

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.