The Aisle Steat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Four celebrated titles screening at the 2010 Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas are available simultaneously on demand via IFC Midnight, and for 30 days afterward. The Aisle Seat is proud to cover these films.

High Lane
A mountain expedition turns deadly for a group of friends in High Lane, showing at Fantastic Fest 2010 and simultaneously on demand.

Some movies scare you, and some make you nuts. High Lane will make you nuts. I assure you, this is a compliment. Like most good movies that make you nuts, it has a relentless quality that never allows you to catch your breath or have a moment of downtime. It is an exercise in screw tightening, with the viewer (like the characters themselves) being bombarded with one gasp-inducing thing after another. After my nighttime screening of the picture, I was so keyed up that I couldn't fall asleep.

Directed by Abel Ferry, this French horror thriller is about a group of five friends who go on a mountain expedition in Eastern Europe. They discover that the trail they are following has been booby-trapped. By whom and for what reason they do not know, but by the time the movie's over, they have a pretty good idea. Or at least the ones who survive do. If any survive at all, that is. I ain't saying.

High Lane reminds me very much of Neil Marshall's The Decent. Both combine the natural potential horrors of a dangerous physical activity (mountain climbing, spelunking) with a conventional something-is-gonna-getcha creature feature. The Descent made me nuts too, but I like High Lane better because the entity responsible for booby-trapping the trail is a more down-to-earth invention.

One scene after another is designed to keep you on edge, starting with a sequence in which the characters traverse the world's longest rope bridge. A flimsy structure, hundreds of feet above ground - I think you can fathom the kinds of things that might go wrong. Only when the scene was over did I realize how long I'd been holding my breath. Other perils include a bear trap, compromised footholds on the side of a mountain, and the creepiest basement you're ever likely to see.

Ferry makes very good use of noises. There is an eerie moment where the characters are being chased through the woods. The screen goes black and all you hear are the unusual sounds of the pursuer. In an even more tense scene, two of the characters are chained up in that creepy basement while their captor prepares weapons of torture above them. They can hear him picking objects up and readying them; we empathize with their fear in wondering what he's going to use these objects for.

High Lane definitely has the horror goods, but there's some interesting character stuff too. One of the participants suffers from vertigo and really, really shouldn't be mountain climbing. The same character is dating one of the women, and her ex-boyfriend, who still pines for her, has invited himself along. This leads to some rather disturbing dynamics in the second half of the movie.

A few quibbles come to mind. A title card right before the end credits tries to give the picture a social significance it hasn't earned. I also found one character's flashbacks to be confusing, especially at the moment of payoff. And what, exactly, does the title High Lane mean? Beats me. These things really don't matter much, though. The point of the film is to be a non-stop ride of terror, and on that count it succeeds very well.

Get nuts.

( 1/2 out of four)

High Lane is one of four 2010 Fantastic Fest films available to watch on demand for 30 days, from IFC Midnight. The other titles are Heartless, Primal and Red White & Blue. Past Fantastic Fest entries Doghouse, The Human Centipede and The Good, The Bad, the Weird are also available during this time. Check your cable or satellite provider for details.