By David Watson

A group of five young American student filmmakers led by director Holly (Holly Goss) venture deep into the Ural mountains on the trail of one of Soviet Russia’s most enduring mysteries; what caused the still unexplained deaths of nine experienced hikers back in 1959?  Was it an avalanche? Their bodies were found partially clothed and barefoot.  Did they just go mad as they succumbed to hypothermia?  Some of the bodies had strange and unusual injuries and one was missing a tongue.  Were they attacked by some sort of Russian snowbeast or Yeti?  Strange lights were seen in the sky.  Was it aliens?  Some of their possessions were found to be dangerously radioactive.  Did they blunder into the middle of some secret Soviet experiment? 

Recreating the events of that fateful hike for her film, Holly and her team find history starting to repeat itself as their compasses and GPS go haywire, freaky footprints surround their camp and they hear weird noises in the middle of the night.  Experiencing strange and unexplainable phenomena and slowly turning on each other as terror starts to take hold the closer they get to the mountain the locals ominously call (da-da-DAAAAAAA!) “the mountain of death” discovering the shocking truth may just be the death of them… 

The latest in a long line of faux documentary found footage flicks that can’t hold a candle to the granddaddy of the genre, Ruggero Deodato’s still brilliant Cannibal Holocaust, The Dyatlov Pass Incident (retitled Devil’s Pass in some territories) marks a major, and very welcome, return to form for muscular Finnish action man Renny Harlin who, despite helming some of the finest action films of the ’90s (and, ahem, Cutthroat Island which actually doesn’t look as shit as it used to when compared to the Pirates Of The Caribbean movies) has been rather quiet of late releasing mostly DTV pap and directing the occasional episode of shows like Burn Notice and Graceland while no doubt reclining on a throne of greenbacks like some capitalist Thor.  

Shooting mostly on location in Russia with a decent script and a capable cast of Holby City and Hollyoaks veterans, including busty lad’s mag pin-up Gemma Atkinson, all delivering nicely understated, believable performances, Harlin’s film is a fun, unnerving lo-fi little frightener (at least for the 1st two thirds) that goes delightfully bonkers in the last half hour when, confronted by the dilemma of how to explain events, he throws every bonkers, ludicrous conspiracy theory he can at it referencing everything from The Philadelphia Experiment and Donnie Darko as he ties the film up in a Mobius strip-like knot of Twilight Zone preposterousness that’s strangely satisfying. 

Atmospheric, genuinely creepy and playfully frisky, The Dyatlov Pass Incident makes not a lick of sense but it’s immense fun and the best thing Renny Harlin’s done in 20 years.  It’s good to have him back.

VERDICT: [rating=3]

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  • Edward Buchanan

    I’ve been looking forward to seeing this film for a while, but your comment about it turning quite bonkers in the latter third have me intrigued!

    http://www.dyatlovpassincident.co.uk