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

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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.

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Fri, Aug 23, 2013 9:26am

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.

Sun, Aug 25, 2013 12:12pm

It was a
tent party with a lot of vodka

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)

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  vielnick
Sun, Aug 25, 2013 1:05pm

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

Edward Buchanan
Edward Buchanan
Tue, Aug 27, 2013 8:25pm

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!

Wed, Sep 04, 2013 7:26pm

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.