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Devil’s Pass – 6


Director – Renny Harlin

Cast – Holly Goss, Matt Stokoe, Luke Albright, Ryan Hawley, Gemma Atkinson, Nikolay Butenin

Release Year – 2013

Reviewed by John of the Dead

When I first came across Devil’s Pass I passed it off like it was the usual found footage piece that I would watch some time later this month…and then I saw Renny Harlin’s name as director. I remember being so surprised to see Barry Levinson (Sphere, Sleepers, Rain Man, Good Morning, Vietnam) directing The Bay, a found footage film, and I felt the same surprise seeing the director of Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger, and Deep Blue Sea) attached to Devil’s Pass. Personally I am very intrigued to see non-genre directors taking on the found footage / mockumentary scene, and while I expected better from Devil’s Pass it was a mostly-positive watch in the end that should appease fans of such films.

Five college students set off into the Russian mountainside to compile a documentary of their investigation into the Dyatlov Pass Incident – a conspiracy dating back to 1959 when nine skiers were mysteriously killed while treking the northern Urals in Sverdlovsk Oblast.

The horror genre is no stranger to stories based on true events, but it is not often that I see “true” events placed into the found-footage template and I found that an interesting aspect of this film. Obviously the fictional story expands greatly on the original incident, and the story gives away a major development right from the get-go. After the character introductions we are bombarded with Russian news clips talking about the deaths of the documentary crew, and while the Russian government refuses to release the found footage a group of hackers manages to release the classified footage to the masses, and that is the film we see. I found this story from first-time writer Vikram Weet to be pretty interesting and containing lots of developments to keep the viewer’s attention. The first bit of horror hits at the 31 minute mark in a scene sure to give you some chills if you let the facts and circumstances sink in, and at the 46 minute mark the most important development hits the screen. 20 minutes later the film changes scenery a bit and that is when the good stuff kicks in. The filmmakers really thought they were on to something after the way the locals and military personnel treated them, but they had no idea of the true horrors to come. What really surprised me about this story though is how thought provoking its final sequences are. After viewing this piece I hit the message boards on various websites and found much discussion over what really happened at the end of the film, making it one of “those” flicks that will leave you thinking (if you care enough).

Renny Harlin’s direction is pretty good overall and even downright impressive at times. He manages to grab the viewer’s attention early on thanks to good execution of the faux documentary template, which much like The Bay and The Conspiracy, feels exactly like a real documentary. Character-wise I felt like some of the interactions between our protagonists were pretty lame and poorly executed, namely the conflict that arises when things start going south. Harlin did expertly execute most of the physical conflict though, which included scenes as simple as footprints in the snow and the film’s most incredible scene, a deadly avalance. When horror finally manifests itself we are given some intense scenes that sadly came via some lame CGI effects. Overall the horror was OK and mostly did its job, but it did not hit as hard as it could have and was ultimately unsatisfying in the end.

Overall, Devil’s Pass is a flick that gets a lot of things right for a mockumentary and gives us an interesting story based on “true” events. While there is plenty of horror provided the quality of said horror varies at times, from excellent to basic (thanks to the CGI), making for a flick I would only recommend if you love found footage flicks and can forgive a little.

Rating: 6/10

…Additional Stills…

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