This film follows a group of American students who set out to Russia’s Ural mountains as they film a documentary trying to uncover what happened to 9 skiers who died under mysterious circumstances on a trip to Siberia in 1959. The project is lead by psychology student Holly who has always had nightmares that she later recognized to be Dyatlov’s Pass.
This incident with the 9 skiers? That really happened. For reasons unknown (but heavily theorized) the group went mad all of a sudden, some fleeing camp without shoes or outerwear in temperatures ranging from -17 to -24 degrees, when they were found many had inexplicable internal injuries, and one was missing her tongue and eyes. Most had no sign of defensive wounds, not even abrasions or scratches on the skin but suffering cracked skulls or broken ribs. A current theory is that a repetitive wind even caused infrasound that caused unease and panic in the travellers and drove them mad. You can read more about that here.
When a viable possibility of the real events is that the wind itself caused the skiers to become paranoid and suicidal/homicidal the movie pretty much writes itself. The current bunch of students become increasingly afraid that they are being followed, then they become suspicious that Holly is planting foot prints to make her film more interesting, Holly and film crew travel mate Jensen find a door, locked from the outside to a snow covered bunker but before they can explore they are hit by an avalanche that claims one party member and seriously wounds another. They agree to set off a flare, but help arrives what Andy deems to be “too soon” and he fires at them with the flare gun while the others make a run, the other men fire back and the audience is left wondering whether they only began firing because Andy aimed the flare gun.
Are the frigid temperatures, isolation, dwindling resources, unreliable technology and possibly infrasound getting to them all?
It seems reasonable. And the film is suitably tense and gripping.
Which is why it’s so bizarre that the last 30 minutes is a completely different film.
Instead of a psychological thriller set far off from civilization where a Scooby Gang of artists and academics rile each other up and freak themselves out: we end up with weird creatures, teleportation and the Philadelphia Project.
Devil’s Pass was written by Vikram Weet, who’s been a coordinator on many popular reality shows, his experiences really enhance the realism of the interactions between characters and the developing malaise and hysteria. Finnish director Renny Harlin, known for Die Hard 2, Exorcist: the Beginning and several episodes of “Burn Notice” lends his eye on this one. I’m just baffled at the final twist.
Was it scary? Yeah… It was a bit scary. The thought of temperatures between -17 and -24 degrees is actually terrifying enough for me on it’s own.