MARCH 28, 2011
Hey all right, the French ARE capable of making something that doesn’t knock my socks off! While most French flicks I see make me go “Why can’t the US make horror films like that?”, High Mile (French: Vertige) caused me to say “Hey, they’re ripping off our movies, and not even doing a very good job of it!”. It’s not a bad film, but it’s shockingly generic, and bizarrely structured to boot, ending without resolving some subplots and having a third act that all but ignores the thing that worked best about the film – the climbing/rope bridge perils.
For the first 40-45 minutes, the movie is a straight up survival movie in the vein of Thirst or whatever, with five youths on a mountain adventure filled with peril. The film’s best sequence finds them crossing one of those super-thin rope bridges, and of course things go wrong. One of the movie’s strengths is that the kids aren’t easily identifiable (as of yet) as the hero, the asshole, etc. I couldn’t even tell which of the two females was the obvious Final Girl. So when things start going bad (bolts slipping, metal hooks stretching into a straight, useless rod, etc), I really believed that the girl could fall, making the sequence all the more nerve-wracking. Plus, they actually found a way to pay off the ever present “angry boyfriend” subplot. Seems like 90% of these movies have a guy who came along despite having just broken up with one of the girls, who of course has her new fellow with them, adding to the “tension”. I find this to be an obnoxious recurring theme, but here it actually pays off – the new boyfriend stubbornly refuses the hand of the ex to help him up off the bridge, and instead he pulls on one of the ropes the wrong way, which causes all the problems. It’s a decent justification for an otherwise tired element.
And then the rest of this sort of stuff is pretty good – someone gets caught in a trap, the others run around for help, and at one point a girl quite shockingly falls into a pit. I was perfectly fine with this being a straight up survival thriller without any slashers or cannibal monsters or whatever. Sadly, that’s exactly when a mutant cannibal slasher shows up. Now, I could have been OK with this if they were doing anything interesting with him, but he’s the same sort of Wrong Turn reject we’ve seen a million times. Hell, he even has a little shack in the woods! With all of these natural element-based locales (woods, cliffs, etc), why not have him in a cave? Why make the Wrong Turn (itself a throwback to older films like Hills Have Eyes) association even stronger?
Worse, once he shows up, there’s no more mountaineering type stuff. There could have been some really cool scenes of the kids trying to make their way up a cliff face with their pulleys and ropes and what not while the mountain man redneck climbs using nothing, but from here on out it’s just the usual run and slash. Except with the added “bonus” of the love triangle nonsense rearing its ugly head, with the new boyfriend leaving the ex to die for no reason (he clubs him over the head and locks him in a basement!), and then later the ex lets HIM die seemingly to get him back... come on. The bridge part made sense – he’d rather do something foolish than let the guy help him, but the fact that they essentially try to kill each other is just stupid.
Oh, and then they rip off Cold Prey. Look, steal from Wrong Turn and Hills Have Eyes all you want. Hell I’d even accept a few lifts from The Descent. But Cold Prey? That movie needs more love and recognition! That’s like an established comedian stealing from a struggling guy instead of letting him open for him. Basically, our killer’s back-story is identical, except they apparently forgot to actually set it up, because it comes out of nowhere in the post-movie text that also tells us that the bodies of our heroes were never found (it also tries to tell us that 3,000 people have gone missing in these mountains, which is nonsense). Apparently there is a 90 minute version of the film (the Netflix one is 85), so maybe that sets it up a bit more.
I actually wouldn’t mind watching the movie again in its original form. Not only for that extra 5 minutes that might make things a little more interesting, but the dubbing is particularly bad. Lately I’ve actually been preferring to watch the dubbed versions due to half-assed subtitle work, and more often than not I don’t find it particularly bothersome, but here I found it quite distracting. Not only is it poorly mixed (the entire movie is outdoors but everyone sounds like they’re in the world’s smallest booth), but they are seemingly trying to match up the words to lips, which makes it distracting. Just ACT! No one will care that it LOOKS dubbed as long as it sounds correct.
And again, it’s not a bad flick. The opening theme alone makes it worth watching the movie, as it sounds sort of like Trevor Rabin’s older stuff before he got obsessed with electronic instruments. I also liked how much of it took place in the daytime, and the movie is wonderfully shot (and yes, the Netflix stream was quite nice to boot). Even the redneck action isn’t all bad – I like how he has a fondness for headbutts, and the grim ending is also a nice touch. But it’s a shame that something that started off so promising ended up being just another kids vs. backwoods killer movie, even if it was a relatively well made one.
What say you?