Film Review: ‘Devil’s Pass’

Devil’s Pass (UK Title: The Dyatlov Pass Incident) premiered at Film4 Frightfest yesterday morning, and the reviews have been mixed. This piece from Variety is actually one of the most positive (Renny Harlin, the director, does not have the most consistent track record for his films). However, let’s go into the “based on a true story” part of  the PR materials for this found-footage film. See, we can’t stop dwelling on the fact that this WAS based on an actual documented incident, not an urban legend or a story purported to be true but with no evidence to back it up. An extremely unsettling incident, to boot. Here’s what we found when we decided to do a little research and looked up the facts (Source: Wikipedia):


The Dyatlov Pass incident generally refers to the mysterious deaths of nine ski hikers in the northern Ural mountains on the night of February 2, 1959. The incident happened on the east shoulder of the mountain Kholat Syakhl (Холат-Сяхыл) (a Mansi name, meaning Dead Mountain due to lack of game, not “Mountain of the Dead” as some suggest). The mountain pass where the incident occurred has since been named Dyatlov Pass (Перевал Дятлова) after the group’s leader, Igor Dyatlov. The lack of eyewitnesses has inspired much speculation. Soviet investigators simply determined that “a compelling natural force” had caused the deaths. Access to the area was barred for skiers and other adventurers for three years after the incident. The chronology remains unclear because of the lack of survivors; however, investigators at the time determined that the hikers tore open their tent from within, departing barefoot into heavy snow and a temperature of −30 °C (−22 °F). Although the corpses showed no signs of struggle, two victims had fractured skulls, two had broken ribs, and one was missing her tongue.  A legal inquest started immediately after finding the first five bodies. A medical examination found no injuries which might have led to their deaths, and it was concluded that they had all died of hypothermia. Slobodin had a small crack in his skull, but it was not thought to be a fatal wound. An examination of the four bodies which were found in May changed the picture. Three of them had fatal injuries: the body of Thibeaux-Brignolles had major skull damage, and both Dubinina and Zolotarev had major chest fractures. According to Dr. Boris Vozrozhdenny, the force required to cause such damage would have been extremely high. He compared it to the force of a car crash. Notably, the bodies had no external wounds, as if they were crippled by a high level of pressure. Dubinina was found to be missing her tongue. There had initially been some speculation that the indigenous Mansi people might have attacked and murdered the group for encroaching upon their lands, but investigation indicated that the nature of their deaths did not support this thesis; the hikers’ footprints alone were visible, and they showed no sign of hand-to-hand struggle.


OK, that makes sense, a force of nature… but where did the one woman’s tongue go? It was GONE. The same article also cites a high level of radioactivity found later by the investigative team. An avalanche doesn’t really explain those last two little bits of trivia. This ACTUALLY FUCKING HAPPENED. No wonder so many conspiracy theories have sprung up about the incident. The film students in “Devil’s Pass” really are asking for the evidence from the project they’re working on to turn up later on as found footage. Though from what we’ve read–mainly mixed reviews, some pretty negative– this film is not highly likely to cause any nightmares. However, do some more research online on the real incident, and you might be in for some really bad dreams tonight…


Screen shot 2013-08-24 at 2.56.37 AM


So, What Do You Fellow Horror Fans Think?

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