Devil’s Pass was recommended by a friend this past weekend and man, am I ever glad he did. Shot as a found footage film, taking place in Russia, about a group of Americans following in the footsteps of group of Russian mountain climbers, who mysteriously died in the ’50s on a trip up the Kholat Syakhl mountain, also known as Dead Mountain (dun dun dunnnn). The movie offers up some snowy atmospheric conditions, with plenty of goosebumps rising up and not because of the cold, but because the movie wisely uses the tactic of less is more, for the most part. Sadly, the movie falls apart come the end, making the movie great, but not perfect.
Short nitty-gritty plot description from IMDb is as follows: Five young filmmakers retrace the steps of a doomed group of hikers in pursuit of an unsolvable mystery.
Tatlock’s Quick ‘n Dirty Recap: Holly has been interested in the incident known as the Dyatlov Pass Incident, where 9 men and women were found dead in the Russian mountains, stripped down and only wearing basic clothes and no shoes. Nobody knows what happened, coming up with theories such as aliens, the Russian government, or an avalanche. The mystery is still popular to this day and Holly has been given a grant to make a documentary on the incident. She, along with her cameraman, Jensen, audio girl Denise and two professional climbers, Andy and J.P., head to Russia to figure out exactly what happened.
Once up in the mountains, strange things start happening and the group is starting to get paranoid and for good reason, as strange footprints are appearing in the snow, weird sounds are being heard and none of their compasses and GPS equipment are working anymore. All alone (or are they?) in the mountains, the group grow more and more paranoid and quickly begin to realize that some secrets are best left buried.
Tatlock’s Opinion: Directed by Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger), Devil’s Pass is 70 minutes of built up spooky tension, with some beautiful atmosphere and an amazing Russian setting, and 30 minutes of terrible CGI and muddled plot points. It’s a damn shame really, as I was completely loving every single minute of Devil’s Pass. The found footage angle worked wonderfully, making you feel like you were there with them on their journey of discovery. The Russian setting is beautiful and spooky all at the same time. Once the crew gets up into the mountains, the feeling of isolation, mixed with the destitute landscape, gives the viewer a feeling of unease. Combine that feeling with the less is more tactic and you got yourself a home run horror film… until those last pesky 30 minutes.
I can’t go into the fine details of the last 30 minutes, lest I spoil the entire movie for you, but I can tell you that the movie unfortunately introduces some wonky CGI tactics, that are fairly awful and go about almost ruining the movie for me; it was completely unnecessary. There also is something else that happens in the movie that leaves open a bunch of unanswered questions, especially about the original group of men and women who mysteriously died. How they did, is never quite answered and it’s pretty damn frustrating, when you think about it. Also, I’m not really sure what kind of battery that handheld camera is using, but damn I gotta get my hands on one. (You’ll know what I mean if you see the movie.)
Thankfully, I’m not going to let a few strange and annoying story decisions ruin my opinion of this movie. The movie has too many positives, with the acting from everyone being fantastic, the set pieces leaving you with an uneasy feeling and the first 70 minutes of the run time being phenomenal.
Verdict: Devil’s Pass isn’t your standard found footage movie, as it has a story that for the most part plays it smart with the less is more tactic and builds on tension, with it’s barren and cold surroundings. The story takes a pretty big hit in the final 30 minutes, but the movie still sticks with you after the credits roll. Highly recommended!