Director Renny (Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger) Harlin's newest film may seem like a somewhat random choice for such a veteran action director, but it certainly does not disappoint. Before viewing, it is important to note that the marketing for this film have done its makers two automatic injustices: the DVD box reveals one of the many twists and the main cover image on the internet movie database features a blurry reveal as well. So if you are interested in seeing this film, avoid both of those things if at all possible. But what is this film really about? Simply put, it's another found footage horror film about college kids who want to solve a mystery that has plagued them for years: the real-life disappearance of nine scientists and skiers in the middle of the Russian mountains. Prior knowledge of the true events of the Dyatlov Pass incident add to the viewing experience, but are by no means a prerequisite for enjoying Devil's Pass.
Relative newcomers Holly Goss, Matt Stokoe, Luke Albright, Ryan Hawley, and Gemma Atkinson all do a great job as the five would-be world-famous documentarians. The atmosphere and mood established as soon as they arrive at their destination is enough to keep even the most easily-bored viewer glued to the screen until its chaotic, albeit somewhat rushed conclusion. The first third is essentially an adventure tale with a little bit of history thrown in along the way. The second act is all about escalation, dropping clues, and building tension. And the third (and arguably strongest) part of the film is where the horror kicks in. It becomes a different movie altogether once the audience (and the remaining crew members) find out what's really going on in the mountains. And it's terrifying.
The greatest strength of this film is the director's usage of his obvious love for snow-covered landscapes in conjunction with a cleverly-written script about a creative topic. It also doesn't hurt any that the story-behind-the-story is completely and utterly fascinating. This genre-twisting movie is a must-watch for horror fans, realistic science fiction aficionados, and especially those who wish to see Harlin make his big return to helming Hollywood blockbusters.