Saturday, August 17, 2013

Devil's Pass (IFC Films 2013) - Renny Harlin's Still Got It

I remember growing up a fan of Renny Harlin's work though I most remember falling in love with Nightmare on Elm Street 4. When that movie was released there was this making of special that got some serious replay on the USA Network, and I, monster kid in training, watched it every damn time it was on. I later would see Prison and enjoyed it but more recently had the chance to enjoy the Scream Factory Blu-ray with an amazing making of featurette. It seems that I really do like Renny's style. Cliffhanger and Die Hard 2 are great movies, but I think he excels at horror and darker fantasy. That leads us to his next, found footage effort, Devil's Pass.

Synopsis from IFC Films:

The film follows five American college students as they explore the infamous Dyatlov’s Pass in hopes of uncovering the mystery of nine Russian hikers who made the same trek in 1959 – only to be found dead two weeks later.

The real life mystery of the Dyatlov Pass Incident has baffled investigators and researchers for decades, and rumors have attributed their strange deaths to everything from alien encounters to government conspiracies. Check out the brand new trailer to join a new generation of explorers as they make their way through the infamous Ural Mountains and uncover secrets more shocking than they could have ever imagined.

The first half of the movie is a fairly standard found footage movie, and I was put off. Why is IFC putting out a generic found footage picture. Group of young students goes into the wild to find X. X being anything you might be afraid of if it's trying to get or eat you. Group of young students find X. Group of young students try to escape X. Group of young students either live or die, but X is still out there. That's the formula. About half of Devil's Pass is formula found footage, until you can't tell what's going on. Once your confused, the movie can toy with your emotions and perception of reality. In other words, I believe Renny Harlin made the first half of the movie as one giant set up to make you feel like you were watching a fairly standard found footage feature only to twist it on its end for the second act. It works. 

I'm not saying that Harlin has reinvented the wheel. The concepts portrayed in Devil's Pass are not wholly unique, but they are executed well. The mythology behind the need to venture into the wild combined with the realization of what that some might be carries the movie, engages the audience and ultimately creates a claustrophobic freak out with fast paced action. I think the last movie that got me that good was Grave Encounters. Before that The Descent. That's good company to be in. 

Wanna read up on the Dyaltov Pass Incident that inspired the movie? Go check it out here

DEVIL'S PASS opens in select theaters and will be available on cable VOD, as well as digital platforms (including iTunes and SundanceNow) on August 23rd.


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