I have always been fascinated by certain events in the real world that are shrouded in mystery. There are so many interesting (and also horrifying) tales in the world’s past that so far scientists, or anyone else for that matter, can’t really explain what exactly might have happened. I first became aware of the story of what has become known as The Dyatlov Pass Incident, when I ran across an advertisement for this movie. Now events in the film itself are fictional, and I will get to that in a moment. The real life event however that the film has been based on isn’t, and is equally mysterious as well as truly terrifying. In 1959 a group of nine experienced Russian hikers led by Igor Dyatlev, died in the Ural Mountains. This is in itself isn’t so uncommon, but it’s the circumstances under which they died that will give you that spine-tingling feeling of dread. When the bodies were eventually found, there were signs of major trauma. One had a crushed skull, two had major chest fractions, and even more horrifying there was a body that missed both it’s eyes, and another that had no tongue.
There were also signs of high level radiation on the clothes of one of the victims. The conclusion was that most of them have died because of severe hypothermia, and a new investigation by Russia in 2019, has ruled out foul play. It must have been an avalanche that the group was caught in. The strange thing is though, that none of the bodies that had those physical traumas had any external wounds. So how then did they end up getting those injuries? The more that you read about this event, the more strange it becomes. Like for instance how is it that a group of such experienced hikers were caught so completely off guard? Why did they rip open their tents at their camp, and some even ran out barefoot? It’s a fascinating but also very scary tale, and we may never find out what really happened. There is a book that was recently reviewed by the amazing Aaron over on Sword and Spectres that tells more about this incredible event. I urge you to check out his wonderful review, and while you are there also give him a like and follow him, because his blog is seriously cool. Coincidentally that post gave me the idea to revisit this movie, and post a review for it.
Some movies just fall under the radar for some reason, and are not very widely known, and so it is with Devil’s Pass. Released in 2013 it was directed by Renny Harlin, who also made movies such as Die Hard 2 and Cliffhanger. This film is a horror movie, which probably doesn’t come as a big surprise seeing that the real life tale this is based on is pretty much a horror movie in itself. However as I said before, the tale in this film is fictional, and while there are references to the events that happened in 1959, that’s pretty much where the similarities end. So what story can you expect from this film then? A group of five American college students are determined to find out the truth behind what really happened all those years ago. Led by Holly who is the most enthusiastic of the group, they depart to Russia armed with cameras to document their findings. Upon arriving they at first try to come into contact with a member of the original expedition who apparently turned back after becoming ill. Things are not that easy though, as the man has been hospitalised suffering from a mental breakdown. The staff of the institution turn the group away, claiming the man has died. Eventually Holly and the other members turn to a guide named Sergei, who takes them to see his aunt, an old woman named Alya, who was a member of the first rescue team back in 1959.
The story she tells the group has them bewildered as instead of finding 9 bodies, there were apparently 11 victims found at the site, something that was never disclosed to the public. Eventually Holly and the other students follow into the footsteps of the original expedition by moving into the cold mountains, hoping to find clues to the mystery. Not before long though strange events are beginning to happen. Mysterious sounds can be heard at night, in the morning weird footsteps are found at their campsite, and a strange sense of being watched takes hold of the group. History seems to be repeating itself…..Devil’s Pass is a film in the found footage category, like for instance The Blair Witch Project. Where that last named infamous horror movie, truly gave you an incredible sense of unease, this film doesn’t come close to recreating that feeling. That doesn’t mean it’s a total loss though, as there is still enough in the movie to enjoy. For one thing it’s filmed entirely in Russia itself, and that means it does have a real feeling of authenticity to it. The snowy and bleak landscape installs a good feeling of claustrophobia, and this certainly helps to give you some chills (pun intended) during some of the more scary sequences.
The actors in the film are all pretty much unknowns, and do an adequate job in portraying their roles, but I can’t say that these were stellar performances. I think what makes this movie interesting to watch is the real life event it was based on, and where you as a viewer are constantly left wondering what has really happened all those years ago. While this is classified as a horror movie, it’s more of a thriller, but it’s a slow paced one at best. It takes a while to get going, but when it does, there are some sequences in the movie that make it worth your time. There’s also a pretty nice twist at the end, that maybe seasoned movie watchers might see coming, but will still probably give you that smile on your face when you see it. This isn’t a gorefest, as there is little to no blood in the movie, and honestly that’s not a bad thing as this film doesn’t need it. Overall this film is an okay watch. It doesn’t reinvent the found footage genre, but gives you just enough bang for your buck to enjoy it. It’s the real story however that is definitely more interesting, and one has to wonder if someone will ever make a film about that original incident. I for one would love to see it.
I give Devil’s Pass (The Dyatlov Pass Incident) a 7 out of 10 score.