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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Devil's Highway
Devil's Highway
Image // Unrated // February 27, 2007
List Price: $26.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Thomas Spurlin | posted March 8, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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And to think, road movies are supposed to be fun.

Don't tell that to director Fabien Pruvot, director of Devil's Highway. He's hell-bent on sending a group of strangers crusing to their demise. Not only does he stay true to his desire, but he accomplishes it with panache. Although a little rough around the edges with the dialogue and possessing a visual style reminiscent of a stereotypically erratic acid trip, Devil's Highway maintains a steady course fueled by a moderately satisfying level of subdued tension.


The Film:

Screeching his stolen car to a halt next to a wobbling battered woman, a burly, tough stranger (Shane Brolly) shifts his glance from the crashed, pursuing law enforcement vehicle at his side towards her presence. Through the dusty, arid desert landscape, the woman shimmies scantily towards his new ride. Offering her a hitch, she hops in and peers back upon him with piercing blue eyes and a dripping red lip. Once on their way, a dialogue between the two condemned souls starts that would ultimately destroy the course of this thieving man's life.

Elsewhere, a tour bus to Las Vegas starts to herd all its passengers into their respective seats. All walks of life hop into this shimmering silver transport, from priest and pupil to a lost teenager escaping her life. It's on this very bus that the enigmatic stranger with a pension for stealing joins the crew, sans his female escort. Instantly, the vibes he gives off rubs all the passengers the wrong way. Strangely enough, at the first port of dock for their journey, this mysterious stranger seemingly vanishes into thin air while departed from the bus. Everyone else imagines his disappearance, while one woman still senses his ominous presence looming in the cabin. As another passenger vanishes at the next stop, it's clear that something truly ominous looms in the bus amidst their travels.

While sporting a minimal core setup, Devil's Highway works well as a moderate character study of each passenger and their intersecting differences. This devilishly quaint horror film is one that lends out a sensible portion of charm through its differing, albeit conventionally adherant, host of characters. It's safe to say that all of these predestined individuals are thoroughly crafted with something dark within their lives. This makes for the bus' civil war of accusations compelling to watch. All of these characters aren't effectively portrayed, but they all manage to squeak by without doing the film any harm.

There's one problem that lies within this mysterious account of passenger disappearance amidst the infinite desert. Never does a sense of dread or unbearable tension surface. Despite Shane Brolly's initial bone-chilling waltz onto the bus, Devil's Highway maintains a relatively tame level of dread. It's a minimally creepy film that leans upon a lot of small nuanced dialogue and subtle facial expressions. This choice to steer clear of traditional scares and true, pending menace eases the pressure on the film, thus allowing the relaxed eeriness of the tale to soak in.

Where the film pulls out the stops is with sporadically zany cinematography. Don't read into that wrong; Devil's Highway is actually quite potently shot. Many of the scenic pans across the desert skyline are extroadinarily striking. Plus, most of the texturally filtered images provide a unique, simmering warmth. Within the tense moments, however, the editing can snap and flicker between flashy, oversaturated screenshots at a breakneck pace. At one point, drug use does rear its head and, amidst the already saturated cinematography, it's a bit headache inducing. A blink of an eye could probably result in a missed frame or two with this piece. However, for such a small film, the visual style is like a splash of ice water to the face. It still maintains the overall feel of a budget B-film, but does so with style.

Devil's Highway isn't out to dazzle avid horror fans with severed limbs and screech-worthy showstoppers. Fabien Pruvot's bleak little work relies on a steady stream of eeriness to remain effective. Though the scenario drags a bit and grows a shade on the repetitive side, it reaches a peak with a moderately foreseeable conclusion that'll probably induce a grin or two. There are many more frightening films out there than Devil's Highway, but what this little piece achieves visually and thematically is worth the vested time.


The DVD:

Image Entertainment has presented Devil's Highway in a standard keepcase DVD with moderately interesting coverart. Similar color-themed artwork is replicated on the disc.

The Video:

Devil's Highway is presented in its theatrical widescreen aspect ratio. Stunning is one way to describe the anamorphic 1.78:1 video transfer. The feral use of oversaturated colors pours through crisp and clean without any real flaws in sight. Detail was very sharp in some scenes, then intentionally and pleasantly abstract in others. This massive palette splayed well across the screen. Devil's Highway glistening, albeit erratic, cinematography looks extremely nice.

The Audio:

Here's a treat for fans of the film that'll enhance the atmospheric punch. Devil's Highway comes with Dolby Digital 5.1, 2.0 and DTS 5.1 audio. Though the difference between the tracks was pretty subtle, the lower-ranged sound effects were much tighter in the DTS track. Sound effects were effectively used and spread across all channels well; especially strong was the van's rumbling engine and assorted movement effects heard numerous times throughout the film. Both tracks suffered a little bit from "tin can" syndrome with the dialogue. The voices were a bit difficult to hear and generally rang a little high pitched (except for the priest's pupil whose voice thundered). Overall, the mixes we adequately crafted to accompany the rich visuals.

The Extras:

Zilch, except for a Scene Selection screen.


Final Thoughts:

Those looking for scares a minute or a multitude of decapitated limbs with their horror flick best steer clean of Pruvot's creepy little thriller. However, the visual crispness and simple, character-driven plot within this eerie mystery makes this one worth a watch. Devil's Highway is a sturdy Rental that'll work great for a mellow night in need of a simple, yet mildly edgy thriller.



Thomas Spurlin, Staff Reviewer -- DVDTalk Reviews | Personal Blog/Site
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