NOTE: This film is not available on Blu-Ray in the US. It is available in other territories under the title The Dyatlov Pass Incident.
A group of students retrace the steps of the ill fated Dyatlov expedition and encounter a mystery none of them expected . . .
Directed by Renny Harlin (Cliffhanger, Die Hard 2: Die Harder), Devil’s Pass is yet another found footage style horror film, this time using the events of a real mystery as a springboard. Of course, it is still a found footage style film, so the problems that typically exist in this style film exist here. Perhaps I have become jaded, but this style of film has completely run it’s course. Devil’s Pass does nothing to buck the trend, but it does introduce some interesting ideas into the story. Sadly, the execution leaves a lot to be desired.
The film let’s you know that the Russian government found the footage but wouldn’t release it and it was up to hackers to release it to the world. When the film tells you that, you know it’s not going to end well for the students. The film then begins as the footage released by the hackers. We see the students discussing the incidents of the real Dyatlov Pass incident, and then they begin to retrace the steps taken by the ill fated party. Once they reach the pass, a mystery emerges that none of them escape alive.
While Renny Harlin has disappeared from the spotlight somewhat, his direction is still fairly good. While he has yet to make a great film, he has made some very good ones that I like a lot, including The Long Kiss Goodnight. While this film will not put him back on the map (it was straight to DVD, after all), it is a good start and a reminder that he is still out there. Sadly, he makes some amateurish mistakes in this film that I would have expected him not to make. The biggest mistake would be making this a found footage film.
Let me clarify. Found footage is for low budget filmmakers who are on a super strict budget and need to improvise and attempt to innovate to get their film made. What we have here is a big budget director dabbling in the flavor of the moment style attempting to put his stamp on the genre. While doing that, he makes the same mistakes others before have made. The biggest issue is the way it is filmed. There are scenes where they would have dropped the camera and ran. Instead, we get closeups of the actors in peril. It is blatant and almost humorous. Especially at the end of the film. I will not give the ending away, but I actually chuckled when I saw what the ‘camera operator’ actually did. You will know it when you see it and you will chuckle, if not burst into a full chortle. Take a look at this picture here:
This is supposed to be filmed by the dude there. That’s a pretty nice dramatic shot, right? Good thing they thought of getting the dramatic shot while their lives are in danger . . . They also hold hands and he manages to film it. Seriously . . .
Don’t get me wrong, the movie is not terrible. In fact, I actually quite enjoyed it. I really liked the story which mixes the incidents of the real Dyatlov Pass Incident with, believe it or not, the Philadelphia Experiment. Then there are the monsters that are featured on the cover of the DVD . . .Not to mention talk of UFO’s . . .
The film can seem a little busy at times, for the reasons stated above, but the story intrigued me and I honestly didn’t see where it was going. While it is not a great film and not particularly scary, with the exception of the avalanche scene, it was an entertaining watch.
**1/2 out of ****
BIZZAM!! Fun Facts!
- The Dyatlov Pass Incident is a real event that occurred in 1959 where 9 hikers died under mysterious circumstances. According to Wikipedia: “Investigators at the time determined that the hikers tore open their tent from within, departing barefoot into heavy snow and a temperature of −30 °C (−22 °F). Although the corpses showed no signs of struggle, two victims had fractured skulls, two had broken ribs, and one was missing parts of her face due to postmortem decay.”
- The film references The Philadelphia Experiment. Click here to head to Wikipedia to read more about this fascinating story.