HIGH LANE (Vertige) Review

As is the case with many a generic horror flick, you quickly realise at the start of High Lane (or Vertige, its original French title) that there's fun to be had guessing which of the universally aggravating youths will survive the inevitable ordeal. It's an old habit but not without value - a personal insurance policy against losing interest half way through, if things get a little too generic.

 And High Lane is indeed generic; a familiar slasher/redneck horror that pitches a group of friends into a nightmare vacation scenario in the Croatian hills. All set for some rock-climbing action, they venture onto a trail that's been closed for repairs and soon find themselves in trouble (it turns out the trail was closed for a reason...). As well as the immediate fear of death by falling a very long distance onto something hard, there's an unresolved love triangle which quickly brings barely concealed tensions to the surface. Soon though, the vertiginous drops are the least of their worries as they find themselves lost and being hunted like game animals by a mysterious poacher called Anton.

Recalling everything from Deliverance to Gallic retro-shocker Haute Tension (Switchblade Romance) by way of The Descent, High Lane follows a well-worn path of sending some bickering friends on an activity holiday where the countryside and its inhabitants turn out to be rather more frightening than expected. Recent European entries have met with success, overcoming the genre conventions by way of renewed vigour or a fresh slant on proceedings. Dead Snow and Cold Prey come to mind. For half its running time High Lane manages to be a tense, if not original, rock-climbing thriller - a French Cliffhanger for teens. But, half way through, when the threat becomes human, things tumble down hill and first time feature director Abel Ferry loses his way. The principle issue is a catastrophically uncharismatic and unscary villain. The action never loses momentum, but the scares dry up.

It's a flashy and efficiently directed movie with some great scenery, and the early climbing follies are handled with panache. Performances are pretty capable too, but the horror elements lack imagination and for a film that seemingly wants to bump shoulders with French new wave horrors like Martyrs, it's far too soft. That said, I was wrong on who survives (or not) to the credits... so bring that insurance policy with you.

High Lane is out on UK R2 DVD from 17th May through Optimum Home Entertainment.
Total Running Time: 81 mins approx Feature Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 ;Colour PAL ;Region 2 ;Dolby 5.1 / Stereo 2.0 ;French language with English subtitles
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