Stars: Richard Reid, Gemma Atkinson, Matt Stokoe, Luke Albright, Holly Goss | Written by Vikram Weet | Directed by Renny Harlin
Based on a true story:
In February, 1959, nine Russians hikers ventured into the Ural Mountains on a trip that should have been manageable for a group with their vast experience. Two weeks later, all nine were discovered dead. A search party found the hikers’ tents ripped open from the inside and all seemed to have died from hypothermia. Aside from a few fractures and broken bones, there appeared to be indication of foul play. With no compelling evidence or witnesses to account for the puzzling night, the case quickly fell into legendary infamy. Many have theorized that a small avalanche caught them off guard, forced them to cut through their tents and make an escape into their snowy surroundings where they froze. The riddle has baffled investigators, researchers and authorities ever since.
Now director Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2, The Long Kiss Goodnight) heads back behind the camera for his first feature film in two years, mixing fact with fiction in a tale that sees five young filmmakers retrace the steps of the doomed hikers in pursuit of the unsolvable mystery…
The Dyatlov Pass Incident is a part of Russian history that still remains shrouded in mystery, with many different conspiracies about just what happened on that barren mountainside – some say it was a simple as the nine trying to escape an avalanche, others say it was aliens, some say it was a strange government experiment that the climbers stumbled upon. It’s a story that is ripe for filmic exploration and it’s surprising that we haven’t seen more takes on this mystery…
The Dyatlov Pass Incident, which is shot in a POV, found-footage style yet forgoes the typical stylings of the genre (there’s more steadicam footage here than in a million other Blair Witch Project knock-offs for one), sits clearly in the conspiracy theory camp, positing that the deaths were connected to a huge cover-up that is some how connected to the USS Eldridge, the Philadelphia experiment, and a possible explanation for the existence of the Moth Man, the Yeti – in fact every monstrous “urban legend” that has ever existed!
Feeling very much like an extended version of The X-Files – sans Scully and Mulder – The Dyatlov Pass Incident shares a hell of a lot in common with the aforementioned Blair Witch Project, with many of that films key plot points relocated and recreated on the snowy Ural Mountains instead of the backwoods of America – which means Harlin’s film feels much more derivative than it should. Don’t get me wrong, there is a decent horror story here just bubbling beneath the surface of the film, and the conspiracies posited make for a great plot – it’s just a shame that Harlin’s insistence on shooting this found-footage style (although I can clearly see why the decision was made to shoot this way) detracts from what could have been a much more effective terror tale.
A decent found-footage flick ruined by its final third (when Harlin and co. resort to the cliched, oh-so-typical night vision shaky-cam), The Dyatlov Pass Incident is yet another straight to market horror that not even one-time action movie darling Renny Harlin can make memorable enough to stay out of the bargain bins 6 months after its release.