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Bad Movie Tuesday: Dumb at the Devil’s Pass

January 7, 2014

Devil's Pass movie poster


The horror genre is at its best when the scenarios are unavoidable and the victims are not dumb. The people should be fighting for their lives and be in way over their heads. For instance, classics like The Exorcist, Alien, Halloween and Jaws stem from primal evil or unavoidable conflict. Take a look at Rotten Tomatoes top 100 and you will notice a pattern. Good people risking their lives to help others is a great blueprint for horror. The Conjuring adopted the blueprint earlier this year and it was a critical and financial hit.

The killer of horror is “dumb selfishness.” When the situations could have been avoided it diminishes the effect. You don’t care for the characters because they put themselves in the situation. Some movies get away with  bad choices. The Descent is my favorite horror film and it all stems from one person making a terrible choice. However, the other spelunkers did not know about it and it was all about restoring a relationship. They did not not continue to make poor choices like our heroes in Devil’s Pass.

Devil’s Pass goes awry as it gives our heroes every chance to get away yet they stay and die. They enter mysterious doors, ignore omens (tongues in boxes) and insist on having sex which of course leaves them freezing when the baddies attack. It all culminates in lots of bad CGI and a once promising narrative travels to a bonkers land of Blair Witch, [REC], and Chernobyl Diaries tropes.

I know that “dumb selfishness” is a staple of horror and I should learn to embrace it. Before, you think this is an affront on horror know that I feel this way about any type of genre. Nothing wrecks a movie for me like unlikable characters who put themselves in bad situations because of hubris (Burt Wonderstone is a prime comedy example). Devil’s Pass director Renny Harlin (Deep Blue Sea) should have taken notes from the exploration gone awry found footage film Europa Report. Demise is guaranteed but it comes in the form of vast knowledge and unselfishness. The death in DP is due to one women and her quest to get everyone killed.

devils pass snow

There are certain found footage films that have risen above the dumb. Blair Witch, Trollhunter, [Rec], Behind the Mask, Cloverfield, Chronicle, Paranormal Activity and Europa Report are all wonderful examples of good. The common denominator is that these people are not pursuing dangerous situations due to selfishness. They are out of their league and their dialogue is good. Devil’s Pass could have all been avoided and that is why it doesn’t work.

The story centers around a crew of young adventurists working on a project about the Dyatlov Pass. Nine people died at the pass in 1959 and much speculation has been made in regards to the mysterious incidents. Was it an avalanche, aliens, yeti, or the cold? From the beginning they are told to stay away yet they keep on trudging towards the inevitable. People lie, make rash decisions and camp close to avalanche territory. The film gets a little creepy but then dives headlong into CGI land and becomes another creature feature involving time travel.

I watched Devil’s Pass because I am a big fan of Renny Harlin. He is a maestro of mayhem and I love Deep Blue Sea, Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger and Driven. However, he should stay away from horror. His films Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, Exorcist The Beginning and Mindhunters have in no way matched his overblown action epics. I would have loved to see him film what happened to the original hikers in 1959 (starring Stallone, Slater, Rooker).

Devil’s Pass represents everything wrong with horror. None of it had to happen.Watch Trollhunter or Europa Report instead.

One Comment leave one →
  1. johnleavengood permalink
    January 12, 2014 2:10 pm

    Mysterious doors? Fine. Sex in the cold? Yes, I like sex. But you show me one tongue in a box–JUST ONE–and I’m outta here!

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