Remember Renny Harlin? Well he's back, and he's made a rather decent found-footage horror.
Renny Harlin’s career has suffered from a creative flatline in recent years. Is there chance of a revival or is it time to pay our last respects and switch off the machine? Once a box-office champ, the director has been plying his trade in the lower leagues in recent times, working on television assignments and movies that often headed straight to DVD. Only the bizarre episode in which he was hired to reshoot Paul Schrader’s Exorcist movie — almost entirely — is of any real interest.
Shall we point the finger at Cutthroat Island? It looks like the main culprit but he followed up that big disappointment with two of his most enjoyably daft flicks: The Long Kiss Goodnight and Deep Blue Sea. And 'flicks' are what Harlin specialises in. Muscular action pictures with a devoted B-movie heart are his forte, but also occasionally his weakness.
The Dyatlov Pass Incident, at first, looks like another Harlin job firmly in the key of D(ud). The premise is told in horror format du jour — found-footage — and appears like a bog-standard version of that. Three American students and two guides venture into the Ural Mountains to solve a decades-old mystery in which nine mountaineers perished in peculiar fashion. Was it aliens, Bigfoot, the KGB?!
The awe-inspiring mountain vistas serve to ratchet up the claustrophobic intensity against the characters' blithe, even foolish, attitudes. A gripping where-exactly-is-this-going plot operates very much in the manner of a matryoshka doll. Moments mutate from the larky and spirited into the panicked and nightmarish. It’s a finely tuned horror movie that seizes on the opportunity to push on into the realms of science-fiction. This is not crummy found-footage on a low budget, like so many titles out there.
Among the mostly British cast (playing Americans) former Hollyoaks actress Gemma Atkinson is the most recognisable. But don’t let that put you off. While it’s a stretch to claim this is Harlin going back to basics — he’s far too invested in glossy film-making for such a minimalist label — The Dyatlov Pass Incident does showcase his strongest attributes as an entertainer and storyteller, as limited as they might be.
Who anticipates a Renny Harlin film these days?
Wait a minute, this is really good.
What’s Finnish for ‘Very well done, old sport’?