Anyone worth their salt in their “weird shit happening” has probably heard of the Dyatlov Pass incident. You could look it up on WikiPedia, but I’ll give you the Wolfman recap. In 1959, a group of 9 hikers, led by Igor Alekseievich Dyatlov, went into the Ural Mountains. Three weeks later, their bodies were discovered and in various states of undress with their tents being torn open from the inside. There were multiple sets of footprints going off in various directions, some of the bodies had skull fractures and compressed chests, one body had its tongue removed, and some of their clothes had evidence of radiation. WHAT THE HELL?! That’s insane. Strangely, it’s taken 50 years to finally make a movie about this incident, and of course the name that comes to all of our minds would be Renny Harlin, director of Cliffhanger. It should also be noted that the movie’s original title was “The Dyatlov Pass Incident”, but since only nerds know about that incident, Devil’s Pass is way spookier.
Inspired partially by a college course and partially by dreams she has of the location, a college filmmaker grabs a crew to go investigate the site of the Dyatlov Pass incident. Even though some of the residents of the nearby town seem to show some hostility towards these kids, they eventually find someone who is willing to take them to the right place. It should also be noted that the “found footage” style is briefly interrupted with a news report to let the viewer know that all of these people went missing and only their footage was recovered. From there, it’s really just a countdown to figure out exactly what the students will uncover. There’s no explanation that’s left uncovered, ranging from government conspiracies and avalanches to the more bizarre things like aliens and yetis. Once their equipment starts to malfunction and they start losing supplies, the students find themselves in a dangerous situation. They find a mysterious door that might offer them temporary safety and some sort of explanation of the incident, but it ultimately raises more questions that answers.
If you were unfamiliar with the actual event that this film was based on, or if you had heard “found footage movie about a group of lost hikers”, then you’d get an absolutely mediocre film. The characters, dialogue, and acting was all serviceable, but it’s definitely the story and justification for the events that made the story interesting. I don’t want to spoil any of that stuff, but it was nice to see restraint on behalf of the filmmakers when it came to holding out for the last 15 minutes to really tell you what was going on. The explanation is incredibly far-fetched, of course, but I liked that the filmmakers really went for it and found ways to tie that justification in with some of the strange occurrences that happened early on in the film. Granted, the justification is just a credit to the terrifyingly weird event that actually happened, but the filmmakers at least tried to address the reasons for all the different weird things that were recovered.
Even though this film is the found footage format, there were moments that made it feel like an actual “documentary” style film, similar to The Bay or the lesser-known and under appreciated Lake Mungo. The budget was clearly pretty small and a majority of that probably had to go towards some CGI effects at the end of the film, so it looks like they did the best that they could. There’s also a really interesting avalanche sequence that felt like what it would be to experience an actual avalanche from the comfort of your own home. It’s interesting how doing something simple with a potentially giant avalanche sequence like have it happen at night so it’s pretty dark can make it all the more chilling. Hahaha, get it?! CHILLING?! Nice one, Wolfman. If you want to see a slightly different take that’s a lot more ambitious for causing hikers to go missing in the middle of the mountains, or if you’re at all familiar with the actual event, then I definitely recommend checking it out. If you’re already burnt out on the generic story and are sick of found footage, then this movie probably won’t be for you.