The French thriller, High Lane (AKA Vertige), takes the From Dusk ’til Dawn (FDTD) approach by starting off as one kind of film and ending up somewhere completely different. Whereas the Quentin Tarantino-penned/Robert Rodriguez-directed FDTD split its halves between a crime drama and a vampire flick, High Lane starts off as Cliffhanger and ends up in Wrong Turn territory. Unfortunately, the payoff is nowhere near as successful as it was in FDTD.
High Lane is the story of five thrill seekers, two couples and a fifth wheel (who also happens to be the ex-boyfriend of one of the girls), who set out for a day of mountain climbing adventures in Croatia. The quintet scale over a closed passageway, contend with faulty hiking equipment, nearly die on a suspension bridge, and then plummet into the lair of a feral mountain man.
Decent premise, right?
There are a few things to appreciate about High Lane. At the apex are the mountain climbing scenes. Director Abel Ferry effectively shoots the actors as they perilously dangle off the sides of cliffs and nearly plunge to their deaths. I’m not sure if these are professional climbers who act, or just a really effective green screen that makes the actors’ efforts look convincing. However it was done, the early climbing sequences are quite harrowing and create palpable tension for the viewers.
Another plus is the gory set design of the mountain man’s lair. It is evident by the amount of trophies on display that this is one bitter (and lonely) redneck. The littered lair of limbs is quite gruesome and provides a few good quick scares.
Unfortunately, there is much more wrong than right with High Lane.
First, and most importantly, the actors are terrible. Yes, they are physically attractive, enthusiastic, and seem to be good climbers, but that’s it! Once they open their mouths, attempt to emote, sing, or engage in anything other than climbing, it is painful to watch. The worst offenders are William (Raphael Lunglet) and Luke (Johan Libereau), the wannabe current and former lovers, respectively, of Chloe (Fanny Valette). Lunglet’s facial expressions run the gamut from pained impacted colon face to fiery Hershey squirts diarrhea face, while Libereau seems to have boned up on his Act Like Vin Diesel for Dummies book, but skipped the chapters on emotions, expressions, mannerisms, speaking, etc.
Another thing that adds to the laughable nature of High Lane is the dubbing of the voices into English. Words seldom match the actors’ lips and the dialects seem out of place. We’re not talking Godzilla levels of ineptitude, but pretty darn close. (Note – IFC Films sent me a dubbed screener.)
Finally, the third and final act just isn’t scary. Again, I like the potential set up, but there simply is no payoff. The killer has the charisma of a doorknob. Fine, make him scary then. Doesn’t happen. It simply turns into The Most Dangerous Game, or, for you genre-only fans, Predators. There is very little tension, aside from the overly bombastic orchestral cues piped in to supposedly get your blood pumping. Instead, it simply annoys, much like the rest of this movie.
High Lane, while it had a premise with promise, plummets into an abyss of scare-free filmmaking, atrocious acting, led by a hackneyed script.
Pass. Time to go hiking instead.