Thursday, August 29, 2013

Dyatlov Pass Incident (2013): Film Four FrightFest review, out now on DVD & Blu-ray







The found footage genre of horror shows no sign of slowing down, and while at FrightFest last weekend I saw five found footage horrors, a clear sign that the gimmick is still very much alive and well. The Dyatlov Pass Incident see's director Renny Harlin, still remembered for films like Cliffhanger and Die Hard 2, take on horrors genre which refuses to die, and this marks his fifth horror after directing A Nightmare on Elm Street 4, Mindhunters, Exorcist: The Beginning and The Covenant. I was eager to see what he could bring to the genre, and the fact the film was based on previous real events had me very excited.

The story of The Dyatlov Pass Incident states that in February 1959, nine hikers ventured into the Ural Mountains on an expedition which ended in tragedy. All nine went missing, and a search party found them all dead two weeks later, but there were no real signs of violence. The bodies were scattered, with some of them showing internal injuries with no bruises on the outside to suggest they were attacked. It was as if something had got inside their bodies and killed them from the inside out. There were theories of an avalanche killing them, and other wild theories of monsters and even a Yeti, and the fact the hikers tents had been ripped open also suggested something horrible. Other conclusions were that they died of hypothermia.

In the present day five young documentary filmmakers are heading to the very same place to find out the truth, and naturally the entire event will be filmed. We meet the crew and get to know them through some thoughtful dialogue that introduces the team well, and the banter between friends is light-hearted fun. A cameraman would rather shoot Denise's (Atkinson) chest than have the camera film the crew, while another cameraman is happy to be in a relationship with his camera and doesn't need anyone else. There are also some love interests going on to give the film that added emotional touch. The crew are enjoyable to be around, which is always a good start for a found footage horror.

Landing in Russia, they first do some investigating with locals before heading to the mountains, and some sinister goings on with an eyewitness to the 'Incident' see's the old man held captive in a hospital, not allowed to talk. False reports and the aggressive nature of hiding the old man from the crew suggest foul play, and the filmmakers get their first big break when they go to a local pub and get a lift to their destination. They learn a lot from the driver and his Mother, and thankfully they speak English because sadly the subtitles did not fit the screen at FrightFest and most of them did not make it onto the screen, resulting in all the important information being lost!

Anyway, the film really gets going once up on the mountains, and Harlin follows all the clich s of found footage to the letter. People freaking out, noises outside their tents, bizarre footprints found in the snow, people yelling to "stop filming" and all the rest. There is nothing new here, but for the most part the film is actually very good. The characters drive the film well, and some of the shots of the mountain landscape are gorgeous. There is even chance to get a shot of the stunning Northern Lights, which look magnificent. A sense of unease creeps in as compasses and GPS fail, and the shots on the mountain at night are both magical and menacing with the sense that something is seriously not right. Choosing to camp where the incident happened freaks out some of the crew, and tensions rise. A terrific special effects moments see's an avalanche thunder down the mountain, and at this point The Dyatlov Pass Incident was looking hugely promising.

Sadly things go wrong come the end, and the films ambition runs way with too many ideas and it heads into baffling, and ludicrous territory. The idea of found footage is to make things believable, but Harlin goes for an onslaught of horror that simply takes things too far and it ends up feeling ridiculous, and I felt cheated. CGI creatures and some truly stupid decisions and script writing push the film from a good found footage horror to an average at best, and sadly all the good stuff is lost by an over the top ending that forgets the quality of what brought it here in the first place. Chills and menace are replaced with laugh out loud stupidity, and the desperation to deliver something brilliant is felt all over the finale, which really drops in quality. It is clear Harlin had good intentions, and it is obvious he was hoping the film would deliver an emotional, ferocious finish but it simply goes too far and offers up too many baffling twists and turns.

A real wasted opportunity, but well worth watching just for the first hour.

RATING: 4 out of 10 stars
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