Roger and I have both been huge supporters of found footage films ever since they started popping up left and right and seemingly over-saturating horror cinema. Lately, however, I have been losing interest and the last few that I’ve seen have been rather disappointing. Just when I start losing faith, a movie that I’ve never even heard of swoops in and saves the day for anyone and everyone who ever wanted to make another found footage film again. Today, that savior comes in the form of a cool little flick by the name of Dark Mountain, written and directed by Tara Anaise.
Three filmmakers set out to make a documentary about the Superstition Mountains and the Lost Dutchman mines of Arizona, in hopes to find out if what the locals say is really true. While this brief synopsis sounds way too familiar for a film in 2014/2015 (the film was created and completed in 2013, but didn’t see a home release until December 2014) and there are almost too many similarities to The Blair Witch Project, there is still a lot going on here that deserves some words of praise.
Dark Mountain is full of clichés — a crew consisting of two males and a female filmmaker who would ‘do anything’ to get footage worthy of a great documentary, campsites being ruined by unknown entities, strange and scary objects being hung in surrounding branches/trees/shrubbery — but none of this actually bothered me, which even surprises me as I type this. I can look past all of these things because of what the film does right. Besides, I like to think of these things as a nod to the genre made [more] famous by Blair Witch, instead of as a rip-off or a repeat.
The three protagonists of this film, Sage Howard, Andrew Simpson, and Shelby Stehlin all did wonderful jobs as Kate, Paul, and Ross, respectively. I’ve seen too many films that were ruined by poor acting and I am glad to say that this is not one of them. All three of these young performers played their roles perfectly, forming a believable trio of friends set out on making a film and hopefully finding gold in the process.
While the acting being believable and competent plays a major role in making a film successful, what really worked for Dark Mountain was its ability to bring new twists and turns to an overdone formula. Instead of making just another scary ‘lost in the woods’ found footage film, Tara Anaise decided to add elements of not only the supernatural but also of the otherworldly. We don’t get very many found footage sci-fi films and I think that’s actually a shame. While we don’t ever get to see any aliens or anything, the mere mention of the extraterrestrial was enough to satisfy my need. This, along with ideas of time travel and vortexes, ancient Native American curses, and cave spirits really helped make this film more interesting. Sure, some of these things remind me of other great films like Yellowbrickroad or Devil’s Pass, but the ideas were presented in a different enough manner to make that all okay.
I am really excited to see that a lot more great films are being created by female writers, directors, producers, etc. Recently, I’ve seen a bunch of awesome genre flicks created by women and I hope this is a trend that we see continue. There are a ton of great males in the industry, but there is something special about seeing a woman produce a project in the horror realm.
If you are a true fan of found footage films and want to add one more to your collection, Dark Mountain is definitely for you. Released by MVD Visual, you can purchase a copy on DVD today.
I give this film 4 cassette recordings out of 5.