In 1959, nine experienced ski trekkers on a mountain expedition in the perilous terrain of the Northern part of the Ural range in Russia, were found dead. In the wake of their camp site; their corpses were found half naked, some with fatal wounds (tongue unattached, messed up, been in a car crash kind of wounds), at least 500 metres from where they had originally cut open their tents from the inside, as if they were trying to escape something in there with them. The official line was that they had been the victims of a ‘compelling force’ and the extremely mysterious (not to mention hella creepy) circumstances, have been a source of conspiracy theorists debate fodder ever since.
Russian military testing, aliens, toxic snow (yep, apparently this is a thing), angry yetis, and avalanche paranoia are all some of the theories that have been tossed around over the years but the fact is, no one really knows what happened that freezing day in February but those who died. And y’know, the whatever it was that killed them.
There was in fact one survivor of that group of friends; Yury Yudin was the tenth member of the expedition who fell ill the night before they were due to leave and had to remain behind, with what has got to be the luckiest bout of the sicks that anyone could ever have.
The film is about a group of five predictably generic, aesthetically pleasing, white students who have been given a grant to go to Russia and make a documentary, while recreating the ill fated expedition. Well, you’ve seen horror films before, so you know how this is going to go.
I’ve got to be honest; I’ve been obsessed with the Dyatlov Pass Mystery for years, so when this film came up, I had high hopes. Unfortunately, I soon realised that although they had done a little bit of homework, the film was without substance, without originality, and without a hint of the chilling mystery that even reading the mere facts of the original, present. Right up until the last fifteen minutes, I’d say the film was mediocre, with one dimensional characterisation, bland dialogue and average acting, all doing nothing to lessen your enjoyment, but certainly adding no spice to another sloppy dish of ‘found footage’ material. The film completely lost me after that, when it spun into a definite sci-fi direction, which was both ridiculous and particularly irritating to those who had stuck with the story thus far. The trick with a good found footage film (if it’s even possible to make one, these days), is to leave something to the viewers imagination, and give them just enough tantalising glimpses of a possible cause, that every individual can draw their own conclusions from, and this falls short in every conceivable way. Think less Last Broadcast, more Scooby Doo.
So near, and yet so very far from a good watch.