Frightfest 2013 Review: Renny Harlin's THE DYATLOV PASS INCIDENT Is A Pass
I want to declare a moratorium on found footage films. Ever since The Blair Witch Project (the success of which had as much to do with marketing as its format), everyone thinks that all they have to do is have a shaky cam, a few jumps and we're all going to be scared witless. With a few exceptions, such as the [REC] films and Willow Creek, the form has far outworn its welcome. If you want to make a found footage film, you should have to pass a rigourous test to prove that its use is completely justified and is the only way your story can be told.
I wish Renny Harlin has been given such a test. What happened to him? Long Kiss Goodnight holds a special place in my film heart, and Die Hard 2 and Deep Blue Sea are both excellent. But this latest effort, The Dyatlov Pass Incident (also known as Devil's Pass), just makes you wonder why. And made me look at my watch quite frequently.
A group of university students from Oregon go to the Ural Mountains in Russia to make a film about the 1959 disappearance of a group of Russian university students on a dangerous mountain. They are told of more bodies being found than just the hikers, or strange alcoholic beverages that may or may not have had hallucinagenic effects, and naturally, strange and dangerous stuff happens that may or may not involve the supernatural.
Now, the Dyatlov Pass incident is a true story. To echo the review in the Hollywood Reporter, why wasn't the film about that? Setting it in the past, with mountain climbers who don't have mobile phones or GPS, is far more interesting and would have been much scarier. Contemporary university students with start of the art equipment and attitudes are annoying and boring. I don't fault the actors; they did the best with what they had. Even if it has been about these contemporary students, but not done as found footage, it would have been more interesting. But the form has simply become too predicable, with too few directors offering anything different.
I'm sorry to say, there is nothing different here. It runs a predictable narrative and aesthetic line. It starts off with introductions of the characters; they begin their journey, but not before being warned of the danger. There is some romantic/sexual tension. Then the shit hits the fan, some people die, and eventually those left are put in a dark space that necessitates the use of the camera's night vision. And of course, the footage taken by the students has been 'leaked' because the government doesn't want you to see the whole thing.
There is a clever play with time and metaphysics at the end, but it is so brief that confuses more than it engages. Really, the only time I was interested was when the actual incident was being discussed. That's the film I wanted to see. Maybe someone else will make it. But please, no more found footage for a while.
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