Thursday, April 9, 2015

High Lane, France Invades the Balkans

I spent some time in Serbia last year, and loved it.  I was struck how much Belgrade reminded me of Budapest.  Sipping a Heineken while watching the Danube flow by betrayed memories of more turbulent times in the 1990s.  I was, more than once, reminded by my gracious hosts of the areas which American planes bombed, and embarrassed that I had no idea why we were bombing them (...a common thought, with me).  I was also reminded that the vampire legend was invented in Serbia.  In the horror world, we know the Balkans as a place where western college kids get tortured and killed in hostels.  Today we find out that this beautiful land also houses deranged, Croatian cannibals. So get ready, as we delve into 2009's "High Lane" (aka "Vertige"), from France.
Five friends, all great looking, venture into Croatia for some climbing and hiking.  Chloe (Fanny Valette) is disconcerted when her ex-beau, Guillaume (Raphael Lenglet) shows up. Very awkward, as Chloe's current beau, Luke (Johan Libereau) is present.  Fred (Nicolas Giraud) leads the expedition, and is flanked by his babe, Karine (Maud Wyler).  Despite finding their planned route closed, Fred leads them past the barriers, up some steep rock walls, and onto the sides of some scary mountains.  The views are gorgeous, but the carnage is about to begin.  We soon find out why the route was barricaded, as our quintet finds out the handles driven into the mountain are not secure.  After some very narrow and thrilling brushes with death, our group ends up trapped on the opposite side of a ravine, as the foot bridge they crossed is now no more.
On the other side, our French friends are hunted by an unseen psycho. First Fred has a very gory meeting with a bear trap.  As his babe, Karine, and the others begin to search for him, they too succumb to some bloody traps.  In one extremely blood curdling scene, Karine must rescue Chloe from a most painful impalement.  Now battered and bloodied, our group decides to retreat.  Not so fast, a crazed cannibal smells blood, and stalks the French buffet line he sees hiking by.  What follows is plenty of gore and attitude.  My favorite aspect of the film is watching Chloe (pictured above) turn from haunted (oh yes...there is an ominous back-story) French babe into a fierce killing machine, bent on survival.  As a nurse, Chloe's whole existence was to save lives, now she must kill or be killed.  As the group is lured into the cannibal's lair, the results will be horrific.  Here they meet their nemesis, Anton (Justin Blanckaert)! (see picture below).
Just who is Anton?  Will any of the French hikers survive?  Is the cannibalism portrayed in this film a metaphor for how we conduct intimate relationships here in the west?  This is a bloody film, be warned.  All the performances are first rate, and all the actors and actresses are very appealing.  Like the American bombers attempting to level Serbia, enjoy this French effort to stigmatize the Croatian culture.  Available on Netflix.

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