The Dyatlov Pass Incident/Devil's Pass (2013)

REVIEW BY: Jeffrey Long


Company: Future Films

Runtime: 96 mins

Format: Imported DVD

Plot: A group of film students go on a trek to investigate the true life mystery of nine Russian skiers who befell an unexplained death while skiing in the Russian mountains in 1959. To this day, their deaths have been one of the most bizarre unsolved mysteries of the 20th century.

Review: The Dyatlov Pass Incident (Or simply Devil's Pass as it's been renamed in America according to IMDB) is a fictional movie using real events for its backdrop. The real life event known as The Dyatlov Pass Incident is quite possibly one of the most spine-tingling, creepy, horrifying, and mysterious incidents to plaque the Fortean world, and to top it all off it still remains 100% completely unsolved to this very day.

I first heard about the real-life event on an episode of the excellent Mysterious Universe podcast a couple years ago and instantly had to go online and read up on it as much as I could, and suffice to say, the things I read pretty much kept me up all night, terrified; short version is that in the 1950's a group of experienced Russian skiers went missing and when a search party found their camp site, they discovered that the tents had been ripped open from the inside, the skiers were all found at various distances away in bare feet and only half-dressed, some with broken ribs, others with skulls crushed, one missing her tongue, and none had any external injuries like bruises or cuts – only internal ones with no external impact points to have caused such injuries. Some of the bodies also had slight levels of radiation coming from them, with all of this culminating in absolutely no solid answers. Various speculation includes mundane explanations such as an avalanche and false mass hysteria, while others include some more interesting reasons such as secret military testing or having been attacked by another group of people, right to some more 'out there' things such as aliens/UFOs, angry spirits, and savage Yetis, and the really weird thing is that oddly enough almost all of those have at least some interesting evidence to back them up, but all also have noteworthy detractors for them as well. The really curious thing to it all though, and it only adds to the mystery, is that the majority of hard evidence discovered for this case has been deemed Top Secret and Classified by the Russian Government and has never been released to the public, with the one sole researcher to publish a book on all this having died shortly after in a questionable car accident.

Now that is just a very quick summery. One article in particular that I found, this one right here, gives a very in-depth and thorough look at the event and I highly recommend going and reading that before watching this movie...hell, even before continuing on with this review. It's a bit of a long read, but well worth it and it's almost a Must-Read in order to fully understand my anticipation and eventual feelings on this movie. My only issue with it is the author of that article states his own personal opinion as fact in a few instances, and I disagree with that practice pretty heavily. Other then that though, it's a very engaging read. Also, if you want a much shorter (albeit still decently long) article, Mysterious Universe has their own up right here, but I still recommend going to that first article at some point as well because it is much more thorough and has been updated with some extra and newer information since the time of the Mysterious Universe article.


Ok, so you got that done now? You're back and ready for the rest of the review? Ok, good. Hopefully you're just as captivated by that as I was and now you can see why I was so interested in this whole affair, and it's something that ever since I started reading up on it I've been saying deserves to have a really good, well-made, creepy-as-hell movie made based off of it, so I got pretty damn excited last year when I heard that one was actually being made. However, as more and more news came out on it, I got a little bit disappointed when I read that it would not actually be a movie based off the event itself, but rather a fictional story set within modern day that just uses the incident as a backdrop. I was still excited because I figure some really good stuff can still be done with that, but it wasn't quite what I had been hoping for. Add to that, it's also found footage as well. Now, I love found footage horror flicks quite a bit, but there are some movies I feel don't need the treatment and would be perfectly fine (if not better) as a traditionally-shot movie (The Dinosaur Project was one such movie), and this was one that I initially thought the same thing about when reading this news. Finally, the last bit that had me worried was that it was being made by Renny Harlin, a mostly-action director that I'm not a big fan of outside of Die Hard 2: Die Harder, Deep Blue Sea, and the terribly underrated Cutthroat Island, especially since his only other forays into horror were the abysmal Exorcist: The Beginning and the forgetful Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. (Side note: I do believe this is by far the longest intro I ever wrote for one of my reviews...)

Despite my growing doubts though, I should have trusted in Renny Harlin's self-professed obsession with the original mystery, because he did a pretty good job (well mostly, but we'll get to that in due time). In this fictional follow-up we have a group of university film students who are interested in the original mystery going to Russia in the middle of winter to shoot a documentary and walk the same route the original team did in the 50's, trying to recreate some of the events that led to whatever happened to them back then. Of course, as you can probably guess, they find everything they go there looking for, plus tons more, and it is not exactly a good thing for them. These central characters are all played by mostly-unknowns, with most of them having little to no previous acting experience. Because of that, their acting leaves quite a bit to be desired and is outright bad in a few key scenes that would otherwise be creepy if not for the bad acting taking you out of it.With that said, they're still serviceable enough most of the time and where they really shine is that they all seem to have genuinely good chemistry together; Even when the characters are arguing and fighting, these actors all play quite well off of one another, which also helps bring some much-needed comedic levity to the whole affair just before the shit starts hitting the fan and it becomes a non-stop edge of you seat spook fest.

Most of that spook action comes to us via a slowly growing sense of uneasiness, starting with some electronic malfunctions, escalating to strange footprints around their camp site, going a bit further when they find a severed tongue, and then only getting more batshit stranger from there, topping it off with one awesome scene in particular of a nighttime avalanche where both the visual CGI as well as the audio SFX for it were great, realistic, and quite frankly pretty damn frightening. Actually, even removing the avalanche scene and looking at just the snow-covered wilderness, snow in general seems to always add an extra level of atmosphere and tension to a horror movie and I'm not really sure why. Even in not-so-good ones it manages to raise the atmosphere up a couple notches, especially if the snow is currently falling in said scene (I'm still waiting for a Friday the 13th movie set at Crystal Lake during the winter – I think that would be pretty damn awesome to see). It also helped that this snow wasn't just some sound stage or fake snow set up in someone's backyard property, oh no, the movie was actually filmed out in the middle of the Russian wilderness in the middle of winter (though sadly not at the actual location of the real events, I believe), which means real snow which in turn means it was genuinly cold for the actors when they were filming, so you can actually see their breath in most of the scenes which makes things more authentic and portrays the cold that much more realistically, and something most movies set in the snow tend to overlook because it's usually just fake snow.


Where the movie lost me however, was when it started to rapidly fall apart toward the end and they kind of leave the whole mythology of the real incident behind to go off in their own direction for the remainder of the movie, at which point it did several things I didn't really like: First, it took a very sharp and unexpected turn into some kind of weird badly-CGIed monster movie that popped up out of nowhere and didn't even have any sort of hints throughout or build-up during the movie to get to this point, they just randomly threw in some very bad CGIed monsters for the sake of it. Along those lines another aspect of this last bit that I didn't like is that, along with these monsters, they also threw a lot of other random things at you out of the blue and expect you to just buy it. Somehow this movie manages to touch on weird mutant monsters, The Philadelphia Experiment (another classic mystery that I love quite a bit, just not randomly shoehorned into this movie), The Mothman sightings of Point Pleasant, time travel, teleportation, weird silvery warp hole thingies, and a few other things I won't go into, and the movie jams all of that into the last half an hour, all entirely out of nowhere, to the point where they totally left behind the entire point of the movie and almost never even touch on the actual Dyatlov Pass Incident again, coming across like Renny Harlin ran out of time on the script for the movie so decided to randomly toss in the third act of another completely unrelated movie script just to give the first some form of third act. That last half an hour really doesn't feel like the same movie as the first hour, at all, and to top it off it also feels like he forgot to somehow tie all that wackiness back into the actual Incident that the movie is based off of because it pretty much doesn't even come back around to it anymore after that point.

Adding to all that, I wasn't that big a fan of their ultimate explanation for the original Dyatlov Pass Incident. Then again, when you've been obsessed with a 50-year old mystery like this, I suppose no matter what explanation they went with it probably would have been a let down either way and couldn't possibly live up to that kind of expectation pressure. Still, the direction they go was a bit of a pretty sharp turn and a giant leap into a totally unexpected direction. A direction that, as mentioned previously, randomly included monsters that looked like they could have been birthed by Golum from Lord of the Rings, and done so by very distractingly bad CGI.


I still want a movie about the actual original incident itself at some point. A movie version of that, I imagine, would be something akin to Event Horizon, but out in the middle of snow-covered wilderness during a snowstorm. With that said, I was actually pretty impressed by how faithful 80% of this movie was to the original events (or at least what we know or theorize about them). Sure, there are some details it fudges a bit and takes some liberties on, and some others they rush through or skim over a bit too quickly for my tastes, but for the most part it mentions just about all the major (and even some of the more minor) aspects in some capacity, delivering a frighteningly uneasy and intense little horror/mystery flick. It also acts as a great intro to those wanting to know a bit more about the real event, and it shows that Renny Harlin really is a fan of the original mystery as he proclaimed during a recent interview, leading him to want to do a movie about it.

However, it's that other 10% that brings the movie down quite a bit as that final half an hour makes the movie quickly go from being an amazingly effective, tension-filled, atmospheric movie to just plain silly as it devolves into a CGI-fest monster flick and kind of shoves a whole bunch of weird random things right into your face and then beats you over the head with them, leaving behind all the uneasy creepy subtlety that made the rest of the movie up to that point so strong. In addition to that, the ending doesn't even match up with the beginning at all; The movie starts off with the news covering the search teams trying to find these missing kids and then eventually finding this footage and playing it, yet the way the movie ends it totally ignores all that and, well, not to spoil anything but its kind of impossible for anyone to have found this footage, or at the very least in the way that the beginning of the movie implied anyway.


While The Dyatlov Pass Incident played in Russian theaters and is out on DVD now in various places of the world, it's actually due out over here in Canada and the U.S. under the name Devil's Pass on August 23rd for a very limited theatrical run and (while not yet confirmed) probably a VOD release around the same time as well, since that seems to be how these limited theatrical runs tend to go this day in age.

The Dyatlov Pass Incident (Or Devil's Pass) is certainly worth checking out, especially as a ' Dyatlov Pass Incident 101' for the real event. However, personally, if you're the kind of person that doesn't need everything explained for you then I'd say you're better off turning the movie off around the hour mark or shortly after (whenever the main characters get chased off into an abandoned underground bunker) and just assume the camera footage cuts off there. What you'd be left with is a MUCH stronger and far more effective movie then the one you'll be turning off a half hour later. While I was watching I was planning on giving this movie either an 8/10 or a 9/10, but what the movie very quickly descends into was just a total slap in the face and made me outright hate everything after that first hour.

5/10 rooms in the Psych Ward


 

Comments

  1. idk, i found the end quiet interesting. it combined the Philadelphia Experiment and brought in the idea of teleportation, and with that aspect it basically showed that the film maker and the last one left wer the actual ones who were there at the original devil's pass incedent, they went through the portal with the camera, the were the 10th and 11th bodies, it explains why she was drawn to that place and why she had the nightmares and why the other guy said "he heard that sound before" bc time is irrelevant they were apart of it all a along and chasing their own former self to herd them to the portal the make sure it happened that way. totally crazy, really intricately written.

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    1. Yes. Finally i Got this Interesting Info.. Thanks admin





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  2. I haven't yet seen The Dyatlov Pass Incident, but it's at the cinema over here in the UK soon (http://dyatlovpassincident.co.uk) and I'm quite looking forward to it - even though it does creep me out a little!

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  3. I've looked over this scene so many times and I cant tell what they are, at minute 37:42 to 37:48 what are those creatures in the background? Are they the mutants or are they just a wild animal that was there when they were making the movie?

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    1. I would say probably a mutant creature, since we know one was following them around, but I'd need to rewatch the scene to be sure.

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    2. Just watched those few seconds again and it is definetely the mutants. You can see the first one on all fours

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  4. Yea I saw the things moving around in the background as well and now that you mention it, it doesn't seem to tie into this movie very well, like the gentlemen reviewing the movie said it's like they stuck something completely different on in the end. The incident itself is very interesting though

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  5. Regarding the author of this article thinking the ending doesn't coincide with the intro. Remember earlier in the movie when the old women said she saw 2 extra bodies? Well the hikers at the end that find the dead protagonists end up saying something like "what are those 2 bodies doing? We found them all already". It seems like when the teleportation happens a duplicate of whatever went through comes about.

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  6. you didn't get it what happened in the end was though not depicted well but the intention behind it was to explain the original dytlov incident i can write a whole article on it here but due to lack of time i can't....but the las t half hour of the film is not weak at all

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  7. So I've finally saw this movies, and boy did it throw me off . I don't really get it. Why were two people tried to kill them? And what was there a military guy with no tongue? And who put out the tongue? Were they trying to scared them? Making them not go in there?

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  8. i didn't understand the emphasis on the tatoo behind the ear at the end. if it was to be the protagonist, wouldn't she have showed it earlier or had blondish hair. the creatures wore their clothes but did not seem to represent them in any other way, unless they changed form in the teleportation process or switched with the creatures...the 2nd would explain the cave drawings as well as why they forced them into the portal

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    1. All excellent points as well. Like I said in the review, I loved the first half to death - Slow build, tension-filled, atmospheric, and accurate information pertaining to the real event. But that second half of the movie, especially the climax, is just an utter and total mess.

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    2. No, it's is all in there but quite subtle. The teleportation is in time as well as space - as mentioned regarding the Philadelphia experiment. It's also indicated that the teleportation mutates people and changes them: the files they found that had all the soldiers listed as "missing in action", they later found their skeletons in the "execution" chamber, and you can see they are mutated with long, pointy fangs instead of teeth. Again, one of the protagonists says something about survivors of the Philadelphia experiments having been physically changed.

      So the idea is that it is a pre-destination paradox. She's drawn to the mountain, where the Russian's had been doing experimentation on teleportation using this wormhole artefact, the Russians are attempting to keep the whole thing covered up due to the Dyatlov pass incident, but fail. They end up inside the base, where they are attacked by the mutants, they try to escape through the wormhole, but end up transported in time, and mutated in the process. They attack the original Dyatlov expedition, killing them all and end up frozen in the snow. The soldiers from the base find them, bring them in to the base - the Russian low level troops say something like "they are just like the others" (i.e. mutated soldiers used as test subjects), but their commander can see they are different (strange clothes, the camera) and wants them kept separately so that the scientists can look at them. However they thaw out - they are not dead.
      Presumably they go on to kill everyone in the base, which is locked and the whole thing covered up as a failed super secret experiment gone badly wrong. Which is why the Russians in the future decide to kill them when they come to explore the incident.

      Paradoxically, the incident is what brings them to the place in the future. It's sort of indicated that "timeywimey" stuff helps close the predestination, with her younger self dreaming of how things end.

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  9. its pretty easy to figure out and not strange at all if you pay attention to the details. just read the comments above the rest of us figured it out. the two that were near the wormhole are the 2 "extras" of the original party, they found the wormhole, time traveled and killed the original 9. see the tattoo behind her ear? remember Holly saying she only had one done?

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