When a group of documentary filmmakers set off to the Ural Mountains in Russia to investigate a 50 year-old mystery, surviving in the freezing landscape becomes less and less likely, as they discover something sinister lurking beneath the snow.
Renny Harlin, director of Die Hard 2, returns with Devil’s Pass, a found footage horror that feels slightly out of place, and late to the party, among recent releases; The Tunnel and Lake Mungo spring to mind. Both of these horror films were different, exciting and contained great elements of horror, resulting in a rewarding cinematic experience. Right from the outset of the film you can see what Devil’s Pass was going for in its tone. Unfortunately, this promise falls apart quite quickly.
Harlin has constructed a visually compelling piece, capturing the beautiful snowy vistas as well as tying in some good post-production effects, however it was confused storytelling that caused this movie to fall flat. There are a number of changes in tone, at the beginning of each act, which are quite jarring. The beginning of the movie was presented in a similar way to the aforementioned The Tunnel, which was a clever hook. Nevertheless, this ended, and the found footage in the second act came across as too polished and glossy, unlike the news reports prior. We also visit some themes in the third act that question the very use of found footage as a storytelling device, and made me wonder why this wasn’t a conventional fiction film, rather than ‘found footage non-fiction’.
The acting is decent, and there are some tense moments of natural peril, but again, once the third act hits and the antagonists are revealed, I couldn’t help but laugh at its impotence as a horror. And then there is the final, almost confusing aspect of the movie: it has almost nothing to do with the Dyatlov Pass incident upon which the film is ‘based’. The beginning of the movie has the standard ‘based on a true story’ spiel, and then throughout we are drip-fed information about the real story, but the Wikipedia page is actually more interesting than anything seen in Devil’s Pass; the final mystery twist feels about as tepid as monsoon rainwater and it’s all just very silly, for want of a better word.
Unfortunately, while being competently made, Devil’s Pass has too many huge storytelling flaws that result in the movie being only slightly better than your average 5/10 found footage horror.