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The Dyatlov Pass Incident (aka Devil’s Pass) review: mountain high

Dyatlov Pass Incident Devil's Pass green light Holly Goss

A deliciously ooky, X-Files-esque chiller that’s a scary-fun hoot and a half; a lean, smart example of the found-footage flick.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

There was a real “Dyatlov Pass Incident,” in 1959: nine hikers died on a remote Russian mountain in mysterious circumstances that no one has, to this day, yet been quite able to adequately explain. I have no doubt that the mysteriousness of those authentic historical circumstances has been somewhat exaggerated for this fictional investigation, but I’m absolutely fine with that, because as a result, we get a deliciously ooky, X-Files-esque chiller that’s a scary-fun hoot and a half. Five university kids from Oregon, led by psychology student Holly (Holly Goss), set out to retrace the route followed by Igor Dyatlov and his friends in the hopes of figuring out what might have caused the victims to behave so oddly — some of them removed their clothing in subzero temperatures — or to incur such odd injuries, such as bones broken without any bruising to the skin and random doses of radiation. Tons of juicy conspiracy theories get floated — Yetis, UFOs, and wormholes on one end, bad weather and the peculiar effects of Russian moonshine on the other — as Holly and Co. head up into the mountains and begin to experience oddities of their own, which I won’t dare spoil. (The script, by newcomer Vikram Weet, is lean and smart.) The found-footage trope works better here than in most other examples of the subgenre, partly because, perhaps, this is less a flick concerned with horror-style jumps and boos and more a spooky bit of science fiction. The unease and — yes — later the fear spring from strange and discomforting ideas, not from things going bump in the night (or in the snow), and Holly’s cheerfully gung-ho science experiment becomes a caustic portrait in stubborn determination that acknowledges her youthful foolhardiness without ever becoming one of those anti-science “cautionary” tales about things humanity shouldn’t be meddling in. Which isn’t to say, necessarily, that there aren’t very singular and dangerous things afoot here! (It’s refreshing, too, that none of Holly’s companions are reckless idiots, either; they’re all competent and capable adults.) This represents an interesting — and welcome — pulling-back for director Renny Harlin (Driven) from the blockbuster bombast of his big 1990s flicks. Other exhausted (and exhausting) Hollywood bad boys could take a cue from him.

UK
DVD/streaming

Amazon UK DVD
US/Canada release date: Aug 23 2013 (VOD same day) | UK release date: Aug 23 2013

Flick Filosopher Real Rating: rated CT for graphic fun with conspiracy theories
MPAA: rated R for some violence/disturbing images, and for a sexual reference
BBFC: rated 15 (contains strong horror, threat and gory images)

viewed in 2D
viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes
  • RogerBW

    Sack the publicist for that overdone 1980s-style “make it look Russian” reversing of the capital N (and I’m sure he’d have done the same with the R if there’d been one in the title), but otherwise hurrah.

    Harlin’s had an interesting career from my perspective: Die Hard 2 and Long Kiss Goodnight were pretty decent, Cutthroat Island was at least an interesting failure, but the stuff he’s done from Deep Blue Sea on hasn’t really appealed.

  • vielnick

    It was a
    tent party with a lot of vodka

    Quite
    familiar and traditional among Russian hikers and skiers. Among the drunken
    males one girl was panicked, can happen, and she left the tent during heavy
    snowfall and wanted to hide before the men in the forest downwards, but was
    followed, or hunted by three men .It was snowing ,as no footprints of the four
    were found by the search party, and all
    four had been properly dressed for the Winter in Ural, as they left the tent before
    the binge started .The men were running behind the girl as her body was found at the
    longest distance from the tent with her face partly in the water of a small
    river. during that race, or hunt ,downwards in heavy snowfall they lost the
    sight and fell down over hard rocks and crushed their bones at the downfall“ It was equal to the effect of a car crash,”
    said the doctor, Boris Vozrozhdenny, (an medical investigator) according to
    case documents. Then the snowfall ended( as they left footprints) and the
    drunken recognized the missing and behaved quite typical for drunkards who at first experience a warm
    feeling even in winter temperatures, thus they didn’t mind to start the search
    a with the clothes during drinking in
    the tent, only with socks or even barefooted. (But that would be a rather dull and
    normal story without mysteries and interests for the media over decades)

  • http://www.flickfilosopher.com/ MaryAnn Johanson

    So, are you saying that you think the movie isn’t any good?

  • Edward Buchanan

    The Dyatlov Pass Incident is something I’ve been interested in, and creeped out by, for quite a while – so I’m looking forward to seeing this film!

    The trailer looks creepy, too! http://www.dyatlovpassincident.co.uk

  • DanG

    Spot-on review of a surprisingly solid flick! Definitely a bit goofy, and filled with those obvious warning moments that only horror film characters are able to ignore. But the tension mounts nicely and the end is a fun little mind-frak that you won’t see coming. I’m frankly shocked (in a happy way:) that Renny Harlin is capable of such taut, economical film making.