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'High Lane,' 'Lovecraft': Horror flicks to fear renting

Date: 2/14/2011

Feb. 14, 2011

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

The two films in this week's DVD review are destined to turn up at a Red Box near you.

High Lane

This French horror movie is proof positive that clichés know no order. There is a germ of a good movie here, but the weight of current horror movie conventions buries it.

"High Lane" involves an outdoor adventure undertaken by five young people. They are going to follow a route in a park in Croatia — first cliché : Eastern Europe is characterized in recent movies as one of the most sinister places on Earth — that is one part mountain climbing, one part hiking.

Sounds benign enough, right? At the beginning of the course, the ladder leading over the first ascent is missing. Here is the second cliché : when confronted with something really wrong, the heroes forge ahead.

We have an uncomfortable love triangle between the central heroine of the film, Chloe — played with style and guts by Fanny Vallette — that constitutes cliché number three. Her current boyfriend proves to be afraid of heights as they scale the trail. Is that a cliché? Could be.

When the trail, which is supposed to be designed for almost any fit novice, starts literally falling apart, the film enters a new territory that I found to be original and refreshing.

But wait, once the group manages to avert falling to their deaths and makes it to the safety of the top of the mountain, one of them gets caught in a bear trap. Almost immediately, we have some hulking semi-unseen backwoods guy drag him off to his cabin for — well, I'm sure if you've watched enough slasher movies you know what is coming next.

The clichés now are presented in swift order: torture of the hikers, intimations of cannibalism, escapes, deaths, victories, etc.

The end of the film could have allowed the filmmakers to present something original, but the director and writer elected to go with the slasher film handbook.

The photography and the staging of the stunts and action sequences along the mountainside are quite good and Vallette — whose work in recent French films has been applauded — is wasted in a standard horror movie character.

This film is like getting a very nicely wrapped present containing the same thing you've received at every birthday.

The Last Lovecraft: Relic of Cthulhu

For the sake of all that's holy, don't refer to your film — or allow the marketers to do so — as a cross between "The Evil Dead" and "The Hangover."

Talk about setting expectations high — way too high.

This new horror comedy has a great premise, solid production values, good monsters, a nifty animated sequence and an effective musical score. Unfortunately, its script has problems, the actors are sub-par and it's just not funny.

The film's premise is a variation of Kevin Smith's "Dogma." Kyle Davis plays Jeff, a dissatisfied office worker who discovers he is the last living descendent of horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, and only he can prevent the return of the unspeakably evil aliens who have been waiting to take back the earth since the time of the dinosaurs.

The real H.P. Lovecraft was a busy pulp magazine writer whose horror stories and novels have proven to be deeply influential. The film positions Lovecraft as more of a journalist whose stories were actually warnings about "the Elder Gods."

I liked this idea, but the script meanders way too much and gets way too silly. This is the first feature film for director Henry Saine and while it shows promise, it also has amateur elements that undermine it.

The performances of the three leads are among those elements that take away from the film. They simply are not good.

While I'll gladly give this film an "A" for effort, its good points don't outweigh its flaws.

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