Movie Review – Devil’s Pass (2013)

In 2013 Renny Harlin, who is known mostly for his action movies, once again returned to the horror genre with Devil’s Pass (2013). I’ve never been a fan of his previous horror/thriller forays. He did the passable A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988), which still shines in my mind for the obvious stunt-double-in-a-wig-swinging-nunchacku scene. But he also gave us the “violently banal” The Covenant in 2006 (“I’m going to make you my wee-otch”), which is one of the worst horror films I’ve ever seen, though it at least gave us some choice reviews.

This time Harlin delves into found-footage horror and instructs us all on how not to do it. I don’t mean to sound flippant here, as I believe Harlin makes a genuine effort, but nowhere do we see evidence that he grasps what makes the story-telling technique truly effective. The story, which had an interesting plot relating to the real life Dyatlov Pass incident of 1959, in which nine hikers’ bodies were found in the snows of the Ural mountains and who appeared to have died under mysterious circumstances, is lost in an uninspired script. Harlin shot on location in the mountains of Russia, which is commendable, but it doesn’t really contribute anything authentic to the film. There are some interesting sci-fi elements which run along Harlin’s own theory on the case, but they never come together amidst the stale dialogue and rudimentary action. The acting is mediocre and the film devolves into a CGI-fest at the end, to mixed results.

Worst of all, the found-footage aspect was unnecessary and poorly done. Devil’s Pass may have actually worked better had it not been found-footage, or at least not entirely. Devil’s Pass has some promising ideas and it attempts an almost smart circular story, but in the end the movie is too light on story and too heavy on gimmick.

Grade: D