Friday, February 27, 2015

Review: Dark Mountain

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2015
Images from the Internet 

Dark Mountain
Written and directed by Tara Anaïse
Superstitious Films
81 minutes, 2013 / 2014

You know what drives me crazy about found footage films? It’s not the shaky camera, the grainy look, the too-dark scenes, the running with the camera on… okay, I guess that, too. My problem though, is that you already know everyone is going to die, because it says so right there on the box, so there’s no suspense in that part: X group goes to Y remote location where Z bad thing happened before, and were never found again. Then add that this is a “reconstruction of their last days.” Not even ”original” found footage, but speculation?

While I realize that it may sound like I am approaching this with a negative attitude, it’s actually the opposite. You see, I am hoping it is going to be better, by turning old clichés into something new.

I totally admit to the reader that I wrote that above before seeing the film, which I am placing into my players now. See you on the other side.

Aaaaaaaand, I’m back.

The plot is as follows: three filmmakers (why is it almost always three, just because The Blair Witch Project [1999] did it?) who go to investigate a mine in the Superstitious Mountains, a real place in the Arizona desert where supposedly the Dutchman buried some gold (this is an actual local legend there), and many people seem to have disappeared looking for it.

With cameras and lights that are used constantly and never seem to run out of juice, our very attractive twenty-something trio, a couple (Sage Howard and Andrew Simpson) and a friend (Shelby Stehlin), camp in the scrub and then run around a lot – and I mean most of the picture – in the dark (like the Blair Witch Project [BWP]), with only the camera lights or night-vision scope turned on.

The picture starts with the woman of the trio sobbing in her tent, afraid [BWP; though happily no dripping snot from the nose seen this time] before flashing back to some locals being interviewed on camera documentary-style [BWP] about the strange goings on and thereby helping with the exposition. These are non-actors, and come across as the everyday public that they are [BWP].

Getting back to our trio, they track through the desert on foot and camp out after doing the interviews, so we’re already at the half-hour mark. Some cool mysterious things happen with… no, I’m not going to tell you, but I liked it. Of course this leads to more running around in the dark among the desert shrubs.

There are a couple of scenes in the titular dark mountain, but most of the action actually occurs in the dark desert. Lots of mysterious things happen that are unexplainable, but by the time any consistent action, other than teasingly occasional flair-ups, there’s about 10 minutes left in the thing. And you’ll never guess: it happens at night. In the dark. With just the camera lights. Heck, maybe they should have planned it around a full moon?

This isn’t the greatest film in the world¸ and can only be considered adequate, even for the found footage genre. I am disappointed because I was rooting for the female East Indian-American director to succeed.

The filmmaking is full of genre clichés, right down to the being pulled backwards by the feet into the dark gag that’s been in too many films in the past few years (can we let that one go now, please?), as indicated by the cover art above, but most of the action is right out of the BWP playbook, a release I always thought was overrated film as it was.

But the biggest annoyance of the film was the way the vocals were turned down, and the music turned up. Even at top volume, I had trouble hearing what the trio were saying most of the time, but the occasional music was so loud I jumped from that suddenly coming on more than the action (or lack thereof) that was onscreen. At first I thought the sound problem was my computer, but during the extras (the only extras), which is extended interviews of a few of the locals, the sound was crisp and clear. All things considered, though, I thought the acting was top notch, and deserves to be noted.

This is a first and only full length release for director Anaïse to date, but I hope she keeps filming, and comes up with some cinematic ideas of her own. Make me proud, and Namaste!

No comments:

Post a Comment