Killer Mountain (2011)
Company: Oracle Post
Runtime: 88 mins
Plot: A rescue team is sent to find a missing expedition, which set out to recreate a 1954 lost mission on a forbidden mountain, only to cross paths with a ravenous creature, which is protecting something special.
Review: For some reason, it seems like lots of B-Movies open with pointless prologues, and 2011's Killer Mountain from the SyFy Channel is no different, and unfortunately things don’t much improve from there. Opening in 1954 Bhutan, a mountain expedition gets caught in a terrible snowstorm. One dumbass decides to go out into the storm, despite resistance from the others. We are not given any information about their expedition or how long they’ve been trekking, so Charles Wetherby, the aforementioned idiot, leaving in a terrible storm makes no sense to us as viewers. He then gets eaten by the creature of the movie, which is a sort of bug/worm/spider/wyvren thing. The CGI here, as throughout, is so bad that it’s astonishing that the SFX people, the director, the producers, and everyone else in-between saw them and said they were good to go. The other mountaineers then die of exposure and frostbite.
Cut to present, where the rest of the narrative takes place. The plot, when looked at objectively, is actually pretty fun - a rescue team is sent to save an expedition along that same 1954 path, with a secret mission. The creature is protecting what the expedition wants to find, and everyone is now in grave danger. Unfortunately, the greatest premise can still turn out awful if poorly executed. Here, the execution is amateurish at best, and entirely inept most of the time. For starters, most of the sets look and feel like artificial environments instead of authentic locations; I know the Millenium Falcon and Death Star aren’t real things, but the Star Wars movies made them feel real, and that is missing here. Early on, when we meet the leader of our rescue mission, Ward Donovan (Aaron Douglas from Battlestar Galactica fame), the forested area he’s teaching kids to climb in looks plastic and rubbery and not at all like any forest I have ever stepped into. When he almost falls, there’s a tree stump in the foreground that has a fresh coat of varnish on it. How did this get past everyone? How was this given the go-ahead? However, the least believable set is an ancient temple found atop the mountain. This thing looks like the set designer and laborers half finished it and walked away. It’s one thing to make something seem old, decrepit, and abandoned. It’s something else entirely to not even be able to finish the set, to make it look as such. The whole movie feels rushed and cheap, and it’s most obvious in the unconvincing sets.
The only thing worse than the set design is the CGI. While the practical snow effects look good (really, how hard is it to screw up snow?), all of the CGI is beyond terrible. The creature, while having a unique design and color palette meant to disguise it amongst the rocks, looks horrendous. It never has any weight, nor does it ever seem to occupy the same place as whatever it’s interacting with. When it nudges a crashed helicopter pilot to make sure he’s dead, it looks so unrealistic and unbelievable that it is actually painful. When it’s hiding on a cliff edge, it sticks out like a sore thumb. I am dumbfounded that the CGI is this bad when the movie is only two years old.
Director Sheldon Wilson also keeps things bland with a boring color scheme. Everything is white, grey, or black. It’s as if the cinematographer was a color blind narcoleptic. The few action scenes fail to generate any real tension or excitement, and all of these things lead to the greatest sin any B-Movie can commit: being ungodly boring. Boy, oh boy, is this movie dull. Thanks to the bland, unimaginative direction, a script written by people that must have never heard proper human speech before, and the worst CGI I have ever seen in a SyFy Channel movie, Killer Mountain fails to get the audience to invest in anything that's going on within it. With a plethora of pointless and frustrating subplots, the script is padded out like hell, and at less than an hour and a half, that is unacceptable. Had the film just stuck with the mysterious treasure plot, there could have been something interesting there, but there’s a million subplots: the “pretending to be a relief organization” plot, the “rescue mission” plot, the “ramifications of the 1954” prologue, and the “terrorists looking for the treasure” as well. Too much is going on, and none of it is engaging. It doesn’t help that, as stated above, the script never sounds believable or gets beyond the same tired old cliches and stereotypes.
Within this void of suckage though, there’s a sole silver lining. Excluding all the actors in the prologue, the acting across the board is excellent, with Aaron Douglas being the absolute best. He brings a lot of gravitas to an underwritten, uninspired role. As Kate Donovan, Emmanuelle Vaugier exudes confidence and can hold her own easily. Paul Campbell as the stereotypical jerk comes off as appropriately jerky and fun; You never totally hate him. Andrew Arlie as backer for the expedition brings a believable level of frustration and secrecy to the role. The rest of the cast do very well as well, and even if this were a higher budgeted, big theatrical release the acting here would be impressive, and far better than the movie deserves. It’s depressing though, because of how inept and dumb all the other choices here are. The good and striking acting is let down by everything else in the movie.
For a DTV movie, Killer Mountain has great acting, but it’s all for naught as at every possible turn ineptitude, stupidity, and boredom rear their ugly heads. On paper, this probably sounded great, but bland direction and terrible CGI hamper all the fun.
2/10 rooms in the Psych Ward