Devil’s Pass (2013)

Also known as The Dyatlov Pass Incident. A group of five young filmmakers travels to Russia in order to make a documentary about an incident that occurred in 1959, in which nine skiers died under unexplained circumstances. The group is recreating the doomed trip in the hopes of solving the mystery behind the deaths, but soon find themselves encountering unexplained phenomena, and a metal door stuck into the side of a mountain.

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First off, the Dyatlov Pass Incident did indeed happen, and why those skiers died is still debated to this day. More information can be found here. Devil’s Pass gets some of the details wrong, though it becomes clear from the onslaught that it isn’t trying to be a documentary in the traditional sense. The film uses the real life incident as a jumping off point to explore the wide range of things that might have caused it, unhampered by the confines of reality. I don’t think this is a bad thing, per say. Lots of wonderful films, horror and otherwise, have been based off of real life events and people. Far be it for me to determine which events can be utilized and which are better left alone. That is a much larger debate than just this one example.

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Still, I’m a little uncomfortable with a film that has a group of Americans solve the mystery behind a decidedly Russian tragedy – and one that has a powerful impact on people living today. I don’t have a problem with this story being told, but I think it is important to consider how it is being told, and from what perspective.

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Now, onto the film itself. Devil’s Pass is perfectly adequate. It doesn’t do all that much as a found footage film and introduces the science fiction elements too late in the story for them to really work effectively. The characters are vaguely interesting, but we don’t have a good sense of their personalities beyond the superficial. Thus, it comes as something of a surprise exactly what makes the group implode, as these types of characters usually do. Devil’s Pass references Slaughter House Five more than once, but doesn’t tell as nearly as nuanced of a story. It would have been better if the science fiction elements hadn’t been introduced so late, so as to give the audience time to get used to the idea instead of throwing it at them right before the end. Once they show up, the monsters are creepy and look decidedly unnerving on film. Again, they should have been introduced earlier.

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Devil’s Pass doesn’t add anything new to the found footage subgenre, but it’s an entertaining film nonetheless. Consider where it came from before you see it, though.

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