“Devil’s Pass” Movie Review
If you spend anywhere near as much time on the internet as I do, you’ve undoubtedly heard of the Dyatlov Pass Incident – one of the most genuinely creepy, open-ended, and unsolved mysteries circulating the annals of the worldwide web. If you’re like me, you undoubtedly saw the pure potential in the various elements of the story for a truly terrifying motion picture. I used to want to write that movie, or at least have something to do with its production. It has so many of the elements of horror that I find to be so compelling:
The paranormal – A compelling force sent a team of expert hikers running naked into the night to die.
Open-endedness – There is so much room for interpretation that your imagination practically claws its way out of your head.
Uniqueness – What is it? A haunted house? A possession? A slasher? This tale doesn’t conform to the normal tropes of the genre. Why? Because it’s true, and the truth is scary.
So if you’re like me, you saw Devil’s Pass show up on Netflix instant and your heart started racing. Somebody did it. They made the movie. Like I do, I put off watching the film for months, waiting for the right night. How would Vikram Weet and Renny Harlin tackle this modern classic of creepypasta? How would they portray the “compelling force” that drove those hikers to their deaths – would it be a monster? Geez, I hope not… Crap, they might actually ruin this story.
Well, I guess you could say luckily, they didn’t ruin the story, which they, for all intents and purposes, left intact. What they did do, however, was squander an opportunity to make a truly unsettling film. Devil’s Pass does not follow the ill-fated expedition headed by Igor Dyatlov at all – because then the film would have to be in russian. Instead, the story is about a group of Americans who – you guessed it – bring a video camera that later gets found after the whole group disappears.
Side note: At one point in the film, Russian news television says that the missing American hikers is “a top story.” Seriously? The entire country of Russia is going to go bananas over a group of foreign hikers?
Something Devil’s Pass did that made me think the film would end up better was character development. Most of the characters seemed to have at least a hint of life behind their lines. More than half of the film was merely getting the hikers to the spot where the previous expedition ended; telling stories and joking around with each other. That much of the film felt somewhat long – that is, until the “payoff,” where “all hell breaks loose,” which felt utterly eternal, not scary, and left me wishing for more character study.
To me – especially with the reliance on CGI in filmmaking – showing the monster is not a good idea. Filmmakers, if anyone ever reads this: please stop it. I could roll with some of the plot developments in Devil’s Pass for a time, but when those monsters showed up, I was completely checked out of a film I was really excited to see.
Devil’s Pass, despite being an excuse for yet another found footage mishap, started strong. It got in way over its head in some truly ridiculous plot development that really didn’t need to happen. The story of Dyatlov’s expedition was scary enough. You didn’t have to explain it. The film completely falls apart. It is as if the filmmakers themselves went stir-crazy… the writer paradoxically undressed and ran naked into the night – leaving the rest of the production wondering what to do with their CGI budget.