Movie Review: “Devil’s Pass”

I love horror stories. Love. Them. I started out writing horror fiction before I switched to paranormal nonfiction. And a good horror story will always hold a special dark place in my twisted heart.

I prefer to get my chills on the page rather than on a screen, but I will make an exception every once in a while. (I’m also a bit hampered by the fact that I am the only one in the house that likes to watch scary movies.)

I was on vacation this week, and Husband went out to have coffee with a friend, so I had the house to myself for a few hours. My entertainment of choice was a movie I’d come across at the library (Interlibrary Loan is a marvelous thing), a film called “Devil’s Pass”.

This film takes as its starting point the Dyatlov Pass incident. In 1959, nine Russian hikers went camping in the Ural Mountains. After the hikers went missing, a search party was sent out to find them. Instead, the search party found an enduring mystery. The hikers had apparently suffered some sort of mass hallucination. Someone, or something, spooked them so badly that they slashed their way out of the tents, preferring to cut their way free rather than bother with the zippers of the door. They had run out into the seventeen-below night, into the snow, wearing very little clothing, and every single one of them had frozen to death. There were unexplainable internal wounds on some of the bodies — crushed skulls, cracked ribs, and one of the women was missing her tongue — although none of the bodies had a mark on them. One of the men had been exposed to a high dose of radiation.

I’ve been entranced with this story ever since I read Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass incident, by Donnie Eichar. The library got that book in 2013, and I snapped it up. I’ve been fascinated with true tales of the weird ever since I was a kid, and here was a story that I had never heard of. (With over forty years of exploring the strange, you can imagine how rare that is for me.)

So when I saw that this movie used that incident as a starting point, I put it on my want-to-watch list. And it didn’t disappoint.

“Devil’s Pass” starts out a wee bit on the slow side — it takes a while to get going. But, the storytelling device used is that of the “found footage” trick, so I’m willing to forgive the slow start. The story moves along at a decent pace once the five students get into Russia. There’s a bit of character development, but not a lot — these students all know each other, and the banter between friends lets the audience in on some of the dynamics. As a writer, I can appreciate the delicate limitations of the found footage device.

The monsters, when they do show up, are fabulously horrifying. The ending worked for me — I wasn’t left going “whaaa? That’s IT?!?” And the more I think about the film, the more intrigued I get. It’s one that stays with you after the credits roll, which makes it a good movie for me.

I’d be willing to watch it again. I’d like to share it with Husband, if he’s willing to watch it with me. If I do watch it again, I’ll turn the lights off this time. I watched it with the basement lights on, not because I was scared, but because I’m too lazy to get a flashlight, turn off the lights at the top of the stairs, and find my way back to the couch. But, as this is a found-footage film, there are times when the screen is completely black. It would have been even freakier if I had been watching in the dark. If you dig horror movies, give this one a go.

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