Director – Abel Ferry
Cast – Fanny Valette, Johan Libéreau, Raphaël Lenglet, Nicolas Giraud, Maud Wyler, Justin Blanckaert
Release Year – 2009
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I heard good things about this one over the years, and seeing that it contained a survivalist element had me stoked and assured that I would enjoy this experience, and that was exactly the case. High Lane does not give us anything we have not seen before in this overly cliché backwoods survival sub-genre, but great execution from novice director Abel Ferry makes for a high intensity effort and another positive French horror flick.
A group of 5 friends embark on a hiking vacation in the Balkans and soon find themselves in trouble when the wire bridge they cross collapses, leaving them stranded on a trail that has been closed to the public for a very good reason: many have trekked on the trail, and few have returned.
Despite the clichés of such films I usually find joy in the backwoods horror sub-genre. I can blame most of that on my love for the outdoors and survivalism, so from the get-go I was intrigued with what was going on before me with this simple but effective story. The beginning of the film takes off as most of these efforts do, following our characters as they climb dangerous cliffs and cross a narrow and fear-inducing bridge that of course falters and leads us straight to the horror from then on out. When the horror kicks in at this point it kicks in hard and very well, giving us great attack and kill sequences paced just right and used to full potential by keeping the killer “in the dark” to the viewer with clever tactics, making the mystery element behind him/her/it very enjoyable. There is heavy conflict provided via out characters, who begin to trade barbs with one another when their frustration and fear kick in, but the conflict really rises when our killer finally makes his/her/its appearance known. The savagery provided by the killer is great, which results in some pretty sweet kills and lots of dismembered bodies along the way. I was surprised to see just how much the character conflict played through the piece, staying strong until the final sequence, which I found a rarity for most horror films who let the horror take control and leave the character conflict in the background. This really is a simple story that will not really offer us anything new overall to the sub-genre, but included enough creative ideas here and there to make for a memorable watch thanks to positive direction.
Director Abel Ferry had me engaged from the get-go thanks to amazing camerawork that used the awesome sets to full potential, capturing the beauty of the green forest and captivating mountainside that was also used for some very daring scenes that had me thinking “How on Earth did they film this?”; very impressive for a first-time feature film director. His execution of the characters is also well done, and as you read already provided for much of the conflict we receive in this effort. We get mostly-positive performances from everyone involved, including our killer whose tactics and mannerisms made for some good excitement. I personally wished our killer looked a bit more…”scary” and not so much like a semi-normal human being with a dark past, but nonetheless our killer was used well enough to provide good horror. As far as the horror itself I was impressed with Ferry’s direction and his creative usage of what he had around him in order to deliver it. We get plenty of gore and bloody kills to please the gorehounds like myself, but what really had me hooked on this piece was how well he used the simple tactic of keeping the killer “in the dark” and relying on sounds and atmosphere to move the piece, a true testament to the talent this man possesses.
Overall, High Lane is a positive backwoods killer film with a few unique ideas in tow, but do not expect an overly creative storyline as this one stays true to the template. Ferry’s direction is what really sells this piece, mainly through visuals and his execution of the conflict and horror, making for a simple yet enjoyable horror experience sure to please those who enjoy these types of horror films.