Does anyone remember Renny Harlin, the man who directed such classics as Die Hard 2, Nightmare on Elm Street 4 and Deep Blue Sea? He’s at it again, directing Devil’s Pass, a movie I never heard of. I’d like to tell you that I saw the credits and was like, damn, it’s Renny Harlin, I have to watch this. After all, Mr. Harlin is responsible for more than a few classic cinematic moments, most notably Samuel Jackson’s inspired speech in Deep Blue Sea. Alas, it’s not true. I didn’t see his name until the end credits.
The plot of Devil’s Pass: five young filmmakers decide to travel to the Ural Mountains of Russia to visit Dyatlov Pass. Nine hikers mysteriously died in 1959 at Dyatlov Pass, which is now the epicenter of all manner of crackpot conspiracy theories. It appears that the Russian government is still covering up something…I guess? As one of the characters points out, our heroes had to state the purpose of their visit when they applied for their visas, so if there were mysterious secrets the Russian government was hiding the easiest thing to do would be to deny those visas. But I suppose that would be suspicious so the next best thing to do is let our headstrong youths into Russia and then (mild spoilers) try to kill them, thus drawing international attention to the area. Yeah, that part’s not too clear.
Anyway, our heroes – two women and three guys – are all stupid, attractive young people. Holly is so obsessed with Dyatlov Pass she dreams about it and her buddy Jensen is a conspiracy theorist and filmmaker (this movie is supposed to be found footage, although it looks way too good to be found footage). Denise is the audio engineer, although there are times she doesn’t stick her boom mic in people’s faces and you can still hear them fine. Luke and Ryan are hikers and sure are handsome. None of them have personalities. Holly’s obsessed, Jensen has a crush on Denise who hooks up with Ryan, and Luke reads Kurt Vonnegut.
The early scenes are fine. The Russian town’s cars are all covered in a few feet of snow and there are dogs everywhere. Instead of the typical scene where a native warns them not to proceed, the bartender gives our heroes a shot of the local rotgut. We learn this is the same rotgut the 1959 hikers drank before embarking, although how the bartender knows this is a mystery.
The first half of Devil’s Pass builds slowly. Romantic tension brews, because there’s nothing like hiking all day in subzero temperatures to ramp up the ole’ sex drive. Strange Yeti footprints appear around the tents and then vanish into thin air, which is impossible. The others suspect Holly and Jensen of fucking with them, maybe because there’s no other sane explanation.
Our Scooby Gang – one of the characters even refers to Holly as Velma – soon finds a door buried under the snow. Three of them make it through that door, and that’s when Devil’s Pass falls to piece. This is the second X-Files inspired movie I’ve seen in the past few weeks (the first was Honeymoon, highly recommended for people who enjoy body horror). I can’t proceed any further without massive spoilers, but what happens next makes no sense at all if you think about it. Unfortunately, I do think about it.
Devil’s Pass is still recommended, because parts of it are fun and hey, it’s Renny Harlin!