Devil’s Pass – aka The Dyatlov Pass Incident – is a 2013 Russian/American/British found footage horror film concerning the mysterious true events surrounding the deaths of nine experienced hikers in the Ural Mountains of Russia in 1959.
Set in the present day, the film follows a group of American students who vow to uncover the truth and presumably get top marks in class.
The true events of the deaths of the hikers in 1959 has long mystified investigators. Despite being highly experienced climbers and hikers, the nine individuals (led by Igor Dyatlov) were found in various states of undress in areas around their camp, with signs that they had made concerted efforts to get out of their tents.
The bodies were found to contain unusually high levels of radiation and with their bodies crushed by pressure akin to that of a major car accident; one of the members had had their tongue and much of their oral cavity removed.
Tragic events indeed and such that only one rational explanation can be given – an avalanche. Apparently not – it was almost certainly aliens. Or a Russian military exercise to keep something secret. Or paranormal intervention. Or a yeti. I don’t think anyone mentions an avalanche once.
Cut to the present day University of Oregon, where uppity know-it-all Holly (Holly Goss – I’m always suspicious when the character’s name is their own) assembles a group of her annoying student friends to prove her tutor, Professor Kittles (Kittles!), wrong and that there is something waiting to be uncovered in the Urals that will explain what the greatest minds have so far missed.
Along for the ride are Jensen (Matt Stokoe), Denise (Gemma Atkinson, doomed to forever be known as GemmaAtkinsonwhousedtobeinHollyoaks), Andy (Ryan Hawley) and JP (Luke Albright, the only one of them legitimately speaking with an American accent). To Russia we go!
It is at least filmed in Russia, possibly the only positive I can give the film. We are immediately treated to shaky camera work, at once lazy but also used in that most baffling of ways, with ‘normal’ camera work used when necessary.
Given the cameraman and sound recordist at least look like they’re meant to be proficient in their roles, you would think the results wouldn’t look like they’d got a husky to do it. On a very basic level, had they returned to Oregon (spoiler! oh, never mind) they would be laughed out of class for producing something so poorly made.
Ominous rumblings in the mountains are the first concern, as well as the fact they are overshadowed by a peak known as the Mountain of the Dead (actually the first falsehood, it’s actually really known as Dead Mountain, quite a difference) though with fresh-faced Denise distracting the chaps (and this viewer) it’s left to Holly to bleat about the peril she’s brought them to.
There’s talk of ‘orange lights’ having been seen in the sky back in the 50’s and when large, shoe-less footprints are found near their camp one morning, seemingly appearing and disappearing randomly, a thoughtful tooth is sucked by all. A couple of days into the expedition, a strange (I’ll say) door is found built into the side of the mountain, which evidently only locks from the outside. I think you can guess where this is going.
[Spoiler alert]: Post-rockfall, triggered by ghastly noises, they set of their flare (orange lights in the sky), attracting Russians with guns who clearly want rid of them. Escaping to the mysterious door, they uncover a secret lab, CGI monsters, a time wormhole and evidence linking the place to the Philadelphia Experiments of the Second World War, where sailors were found fused to the USS Eldridge, amongst talk of tamperings with space-time continuums. Don’t worry, it’s in the dark, so the shaky cam is now shaky cam with night vision. Gah.
Utterly rotten to the core on all levels, I’m sick of saying the sub-genre of found footage has reached its nadir but again, hats off, new ground has been broken.
There’s something a little uncomfortable about shoddy and silly ideas being used to explain away a real-life tragedy that is still well within living memory of many. The acting is grim and the added sex appeal of Atkinson is highlighted by the fact that she’s barely risked with any actual lines of dialogue.
In fairness, the cheaply realised monsters are only half-stolen from [REC•] – they’re also half-stolen from The Descent. By the time you’re introduced to a wormhole at the end, any dramatic tension (there wasn’t any but you at least want the satisfaction it was worth getting to the end) is lost and you rather wish you’d cracked open that box set of Quantum Leap.
Final word has to be on the director: Renny Harlin! THAT Renny Harlin, the man that made Die Hard 2, Deep Blue Sea, Long Kiss Goodnight, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4, Prison and all those watchable movies. You could excuse (to some extent) a first-time director trying to hide their inadequacies under the veil of dodgy camera work and choppy editing but this must be the lowest a mainstream director has ever sunk. Renny Harlin!
Daz Lawrence, moviesandmania