Wednesday, 28 August 2013



Frustration is the key here. On one level I don't really want to waste any more time with it than is strictly necessary, but it exemplifies a boneheaded stupidity in the production process that really needs to be stamped on, stamped on hard, and stamped on several times. If you've got a spectacular mountain location, a twisty story with jumps and scares and solid SF ideas, and a young and photogenic cast, then it makes sense to hire Renny Harlin. He did Cliffhanger, Die Hard 2, A Nightmare On Elm Street 4, The Long Kiss Goodnight: he knows how to do action, horror and spectacle. However, it makes no sense at all to hire Renny Harlin and then make him direct the film in the exciting and innovative found footage format so it looks like it was shot by your mum.

A bunch of pretty but dumb students journey to Russia in order to make a documentary about The Dyatlov Pass Incident, a mystery from the late 1950s when a group of nine mountain hikers died in unexplained circumstances. Retracing the steps of the ill-fated trek, they encounter warnings not to go up there, footprints in the snow that lead nowhere, the usual strange noises, before finding an ancient army bunker. Will they be dumb enough to open the door and go inside when the military show up and start shooting? Of course they will....

What they find is actually pretty interesting and ties the story up very nicely with a couple of mind-bending twists, explaining discrepancies in the accounts of the 1950s incident along the way. This would have made a really terrific little film - if they'd actually made a film of it. Instead they've made a video diary in the wobblicam Blair Witch mode which kills the drama dead on the screen and makes no sense on a narrative level (why are all these cameras recording in 2.35 widescreen? Who edited the disparate footage together, and where did they get the footage from in the first place?). Making the film look ugly, jittery and full of long static shots doesn't make it look real and it doesn't make it more scary, it just makes it look like your cinematographer and editor haven't got a clue what they're doing. It looks shoddy and it looks unprofessional, and what could have been a great little horror film is killed by the idiotic and misguided desire for an aesthetic of reality. Once more: make a film, stop pretending you haven't.



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