The “Found Footage” subgenre of Horror is equally revolutionary and divisive. Since The Blair Witch Project changed the game in 1999, there’s been a torrent of successors inspired by this approach to storytelling. While most offerings are poor imitations, a large number of “Found Footage” films are actually innovative and fresh ([REC], Frankenstein’s Army, Paranormal Activity to name a few). Whatever your opinion, “Found Footage” looks like it’s here to stay.
Here’s another one for the list, but put it in the “Successful Innovators” column: Devil’s Pass, directed by Renny Harlin, is a UK-Russian Horror film based on the Dyatlov Pass Incident.
Read my review after the jump.
Official Synopsis: The Devil’s Pass follows a group of students on a trek to investigate the true life mystery of nine Russian skiers who befell an unexplained death while skiing in the Russian mountains in 1959. To this day, their deaths have been one of the most bizarre unsolved mysteries of the 20th century.
You can link to the Wikipedia page on the Dyatlov Pass Incident HERE but I’ll give you the highlights. In 1959, a group of 9 Russian ski-hikers in the northern Ural Mountains died under mysterious circumstances. Rescuers discovered all nine bodies, most under-clothed and/or barefoot, strewn about the campsite. Tents had been cut opened from the inside. Several of the bodies were injured and one was even missing her tongue. Further details are sketchy but include accounts of strange footprints, bright orbs in the sky above the mountain range, and the possibility that the Soviet Army was conducting secret experiments. Today, conspiracy theories abound.
Obviously, writer Vikran Weet realized what an awesome jumping-off point for a Horror movie this mystery is.
The similarities to Blair Witch go beyond the subgenre. Both films follow college students on a quest to separate fact from myth. The Heather of Devil’s Pass is named Holly (played by Holly Goss) who serves as the team’s fearless leader. Her motivations are nebulous but ominous: A sense of connection to the story and location of the Dyatlov Pass.
The only other character who is really flushed out is Jensen (Matt Stokoe). After suffering a bad acid trip in his youth, the skilled mountaineer finds himself haunted by a sinister howling. As the group nears their destination, the howling in his head becomes ever more oppressive.
Okay, I was a bit annoyed by what a know-it-all Jensen turned out to be, but I suppose you need someone like him to explain the complex scientific intricacies the pop up in Devil’s Pass. Still I had to chuckle at how all-encompassing his theories were: “This explains so much: The Philadelphia Experiment, the Mothman sightings…” Sure, and probably Aliens, Bigfoot, and the Jersey Devil too! Hey, who knows. We’re dealing with time shifts and mutants by this point, so anything goes, right?
In spite of any lack of originality in terms of story-structure and genre cliché’s (typical shaky camera shots and whatnot), I had a great time watching Devil’s Pass. I didn’t even notice that it was only Rated PG-13. The effects are far superior to your average “Found Footage” fodder, especially the avalanche, the mutants, and the cave. Great “twist” ending that can blow a mind without turning it into jelly.
Probably more of an action flick (with a steep descent into sci-fi), Devil’s Pass will please most aficionados and thrill hardcore “Found Footage” fans.
3.5 out of 5 Skull Heads
|Release Date (VOD, Limited)||August 23 2013|
|Starring||Richard Reid, Matt Stokoe, Holly Goss|