There are no naked brunettes buried waist-deep in snow. You should know better than to think that.
Devil’s Pass was one of those few shockumentaries that I was was better. It had a good premise and an excellent buildup, but fumbled the big reveal. It’s one of the few movies of its kind that is neither horrendous nor outright amazing, which is an achievement all in itself. I imagine it would have been on-par with the Blair Witch Project if it hadn’t been so eager to explain the supernatural goings-on within. I lost interest at the halfway point, when the team discovers a mysterious something in the snow and eventually decides to investigate it. I’m sur eyou’ll agree with me when I say that the ambiguous unknown is a greater spook factor in horror movies than being chased around by some creature. That in mind, let’s begin.
Devil’s Pass follows a group of students who are researching the disappearance of nine Russian skiers who vanished mysteriously in the Dyatlov Mountain Pass of Russia in 1959. Some initial news reports and illegally acquired video footage suggest that the students vanished just as the skiers had, which isn’t much of a spoiler, because we all know how horror movies like to repeat past tragedies. Introductory spookfest noted, I feel the real tension begins to build when the crew first has drinks at the base of the Ural mountain range. They tell the bartender about their project, and he offers them the very same drinks the Russians had on their way up. Blatant foreshadowing, perhaps? Oh yes. On top of that, the hints at a government conspiracy certainly amplify the viewer’s sense of “just what the crap went on up there?”
Once they’re up in the mountains, eerie things start happening, and their technology begins to malfunction. Can’t have a good sense of isolation with all these communicating gadgets and gizmos in the way! It’s moments like these that make me ask myself if I really want an explanation. After receiving one, my immediate response was no, but that’s the trouble with magic tricks. Once you know how they’re done, the wonder is gone. Anyway, one of the greater lines is dropped during a nighttime camping sequence, not minutes before the discovery of the mysterious thing in the snow. That was the highest point for me.
Now, despite the fact that the big reveal was disappointing, I’d rather avoid spoiling it. If you end up watching the movie, please leave a comment and tell me what you thought of the buildup and the latter half. I’m aware of the fact that I compare absolutely every found footage movie to the Blair Witch, but that sets a high bar, damnit. Part of the charm was that the characters and plot were so down-to-earth you could imagine yourself there with them, shivering in a tent, afraid of the fucking baby out there. With Devil’s Pass? Not so much. I can’t envision myself running away from Russian soldiers or being haunted by a yeti.
Scott Foundas of Variety wound up getting the same mediocre-positive impression; they could have done MORE with the film. More in this case means less, because explaining everything isn’t a very good idea when you’re trying to scare people. Unless the explanation is scary. But it wasn’t. Bit of an image-spoiler in the coming link, but it doesn’t give anything critical away! http://variety.com/2013/film/reviews/devils-pass-review-1200586363/