Premiering at 2013 FrightFest and coming to DVD soon after this conspiracy theory come elemental horror also known as Devil’s Pass is based around the true life deaths of nine hikers in the Northern Ural Mountains in Russia in 1959.
Ruled by Russian officials as death by a “compelling natural force” the investigators at the time determined the group had ripped open their tent and run barefoot into the snow in temperatures of -30 °C. Although the corpses showed no signs of struggle, two victims had fractured skulls, two had broken ribs and one was missing her tongue.
Taking the story and expanding on the legend the found footage film follows five young students out to recreate the trail of the deceased hikers and find out what actually happened to them.
Leading the group is Holly (Holly Goss) who has spent her life obsessed with the incident and her drive to uncover the truth pushes the group to ignore the warning signs all around them until they finally get to the fated site and face the fear for themselves.
Pretty creep stuff and the perfect basis for a faux documentary horror, or so Finnish director Renny Harlin seemed to think, Harlin being better known for big budget Hollywood action epics like Deep Blue Sea, Die Hard 2 and Cliffhanger.
Horror has never really been his strong point however, with his previous directorial efforts A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master and Exorcist: The Beginning better best forgotten. Along with Cutthroat Island which was a terrifying disaster of a movie for all the wrong reasons.
In The Dyatlov Pass Incident Harlin does do better than expected. But it is really a tale of two parts. The first half of the movie is a boring clichéd filled slog, full of unlikable characters and idiotic dialogue. This leads to the final act which brings not only some truly shocking scares but a clever twist or two to make the whole movie almost seem worth your while.
In no way is it the fault of the cast which includes a whole host of Brits like Holly Goss, Gemma Atkinson and Matt Stokoe doing all too convincing jobs impersonating annoying American teens. Instead it’s writer Vikram Weet’s faliure for penning such a set of stereotypical horror idiots and such a boring build up. Although the fact that his IMDB page is full of work on The Real World and Keeping Up with the Kardashians may go some way to explaining it.
All this said, once the gang reach the Dyatlov Pass and things actually start happening it is like a whole different movie and the jumps and frights come in quick succession, along with a great set of plot developments which tightly tie up all the real life conspiracy theories that have been posted and postulated on since the incident itself became big news.
Much like the trek the characters take in the film, the test is whether you can endure the dull and derivative journey to get to the exciting and imaginative ending that The Dyatlov Pass Incident has waiting for you.
The decision is yours but don’t say I didn’t warn you.