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DARK MOUNTAIN (2014)
Published by David Carter on 2015/3/29 (743 reads)
Directed by Tara Anaise
Review by David Carter
Released by MVD Visual
Running Time: 81 minutes
Rating: Not Rated
Color format: Color
Audio/Subtitles: 2.0 Stereo English
Region Code: 1, NTSC
Aspect Ratio: Widescreen
16:9 Enhanced: Yes
Special Features: Interviews
Trailer Online: Yes
Yiddish is derived from a combination of Hebrew, Slavic, and Germanic languages and, despite relatively few speakers, has contributed a surprisingly large number of words to American English. Words in daily usage such as klutz and glitch are Yiddish loan words which, alongside words like schmuck and shtick, are used because of their colorful sound and very specific meanings. One such Yiddish term of particular relevance to Tara Anaise’s DARK MOUNTAIN is chutzpah. Chutzpah means nerve or audacity and can be used positively or negatively. Anaise’s DARK MOUNTAIN shows a great deal of chutzpah because it is essentially a remake of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if the chutzpah is good or bad.
A tearful woman apologizes to the camera in a middle of the night, blaming herself for the current predicament she and her friends are in. Intertitles inform the viewer that filmmaker Kate (the crying woman), her boyfriend Paul, and friend Ross disappeared in 2011 and that the footage from their video camera and cell phones has been reconstructed into DARK MOUNTAIN.
Kate and company leave LA for Arizona’s Superstitions Mountains to make a documentary on the legends surrounding the infamous “Lost Dutchman Mine.” Reportedly a lost trove of unlimited gold, the Dutchman has captivated prospectors for over a century and continues to lead both amateurs and seasoned frontiersmen to their deaths in search of it. After conducting interviews with the locals about the legends surrounding the Dutchman, the trio heads off in search of it themselves armed with three days’ worth of supplies and a crude map.
It doesn’t take long for things to start to get strange. Kate believes she sees a man in the distance watch them and Ross refuses to go in certain areas, believing an evil aura surrounds them. Skeptic Paul isn’t having any of it, however, taking a crystal from a cave despite Ross’ protests. Paul should have listened, because soon after the trio are swept up in a nightmare of evil spirits, possession, and UFOs.
I can’t exactly fault DARK MOUNTAIN too strongly from borrowing a page from THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT because it is only one of dozens to do so, and the argument could be made that this style of filmmaking qualifies as its own subgenre, and therefore similarities should be overlooked. I would say that Anaise’s film is much more informed by reality television than BLAIR WITCH as evidenced by Kate’s attempts to intentionally sow conflict between Paul and Ross. While some sequences – like the introductory scenes – are copied verbatim from BLAIR WITCH, DARK MOUNTAIN manages to distinguish itself by adding in horror elements earlier on than its predecessor. Paul’s strange behavior after taking the crystal is well executed, and scenes where the trio finds an abandoned campsite from the seventies generate a good deal of tension.
It is possible to enjoy the journey even if you know where you are going, and for me that was the case with DARK MOUNTAIN. Some viewers may find the similarities to THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT too much to take, but after having seen roughly a hundred films using the same formula, I’m a bit more forgiving. Good performances and a few truly suspenseful moments help elevate this one above the level of the other imitators.
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