Welcome to another installment of 31 Days of Halloween! This is our chance to set the mood for the spookiest and scariest month of the year as we focus our attention on horror and Halloween fun. For the month of October we’ll be sharing various pieces of underappreciated scary books, comics, movies, and television to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.
If you’ve never heard of the real life Dyatlov Pass incident, then it’s worth your time to stop and do a little reading. There’s a lot of weirdness surrounding the case, but here are the main bullet points:
- In 1959, nine experienced Russian hikers went on a trek into the Ural mountains and disappeared.
- When they were found, all had died via injuries that didn’t line up with the standard explanations (avalanche, hypothermia, etc.).
- Many of the hikers eyes and tongues were ripped out, but that could be easily explained by animals scavenging soft tissue.
- What still couldn’t be explained was how three of the hikers had catastrophic internal injuries without any accompanying external/soft tissue damage.
- The Soviet government’s initial investigation concluded that the hikers came in contact with a “compelling unknown/natural force.”
Many attempts to debunk theories around the Dyatlov Pass have been made, but those often end up getting debunked themselves (including one time by yours truly). More official investigations have been opened in a the last few years, but none have fully address the case’s bizarre circumstances.
If you’re looking for film that dives into the Dyatlov Pass incident from an investigative perspective, then 2013’s Devil’s Pass likely isn’t for you. If you want watch a great found footage horror movie with a fantastic twist ending, however, then you’re in for a real treat.
What’s it about?
A group of hikers decides to go investigate what happened to the nine hikers who disappeared in the Ural Mountains many decades ago. As you might imagine, this ends up with them discovering bunch of crazy stuff related to the incident while getting hunted/killed one by one.
The film is presented as found footage from the group, which the Russian government tried to suppressed, but was obtained via a hack and released to the public.
First and foremost, the cast is great. Gemma Atkinson is the name that will draw the most recognition, but it’s Holly Goss as the film’s lead who really makes things work. In addition to looking a bit like Claire Danes, Goss’ screen presence and ability to convey emotion are a very close caliber to that of the award winning actress.
It appears Goss has retired from acting, which is a shame since she was absolutely fantastic in this.
As for the plot, Devil’s Pass eschews much of the real life incident’s mystery for one involving another well-known conspiracy. Thankfully, it still makes for a thrilling story.
The journey to the film’s haunting conclusion starts with plenty of tension that’s expertly ratcheted into some genuinely good scares. Along the way, the movie’s twist is set up in a way that the payoff is shocking, but not because it comes out of nowhere. Instead, it all lines up perfectly for a final shot that will have your jaw on the floor (and make you kick yourself that you didn’t see it coming).
What doesn’t work
As well constructed as the film’s plot is, there are a few red herrings that don’t get payed off. Also, there’s a brief romantic subplot that could have been jettisoned entirely without effecting the film one bit.
The believability of the found footage format is also stretched into some pretty ridiculous territory, but that’s become a fairly standard drawback of the genre. Still doesn’t make it any less disappointing, though.
Take a real life spooky mystery, inject it with some great storytelling along with a fantastic cast, add in a brilliant twist at the end, and you’ve got an unappreciated gem of a horror movie to watch this month. Best of all, the conclusion will make you want to go back and watch everything fall into place again.
If you’ve got Shudder, then make sure to add Devil’s Pass to your watch list.
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