Review: The Dyatlov Pass Incident / Cert: 15 / Director: Renny Harlin / Screenplay: Vikram Weet / Starring: Gemma Atkinson, Richard Reid, Matt Stokoe / Release Date: August 26th
The mystery surrounding the deaths of a team of ski hikers at the base of the Kholat Syakhi Mountain in Russia is one of the relatively unexplored incidents in modern genre cinema. Nine people were found dead outside their tents, with shattered rib cages, missing tongues and smashed skulls. Well, now Deep Blue Sea director Renny Harlin is here to redress the balance.
It’s a bit of a muddle at the start as the film decides whether it's going to be a faux documentary or a found footage movie and eventually settles on the latter. So a group of film students of a kind familiar to anyone who watches this sort of thing sets off to follow in the footsteps of the group to see if they can find any evidence of the strange events that led to the unexplained deaths. Along the way the students encounter some ominous warnings from the locals, a couple of mysterious footprints and hear some weird sounds in the night. The evidence mounts that there is something out there, and to make matters worse their compasses and satellite positioning equipment fail, leaving then to contend with the harsh environment alone.
With found footage films, one of two things tends to happen. Either the acting, location work and subject matter are of a suitably high standard but the mystery doesn’t pay off, or everything about the film doesn’t work but the mystery is suitably compelling. The Dyatlov Pass Incident bucks the trend by being pretty strong on both counts. Harlin actually filmed this in Russia, and so the desolate landscapes and chilly -30 temperatures really come off the screen. The performances are also good across the board, even though the film features former cast members of Hollyoaks and Holby City.
What will make people sit up and take notice or reject the film outright is where the final act reveals the existence of an underground bunker and takes a turn into Donnie Darko/The Philadelphia Experiment territory. As far as we know there hasn’t been a found footage film that has dealt with this sort of subject matter before, so bravo to them for trying something different. Sadly it’s almost as if they get too excited trying to cram too many ideas into a short amount of time, so the film ends in something of a muddle similar to how it began.
Still, The Dyatlov Pass Incident is a fascinating and gripping film that despite being fundamentally flawed, is well worth your time.