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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Dark Mountain
Dark Mountain
Dark Sky Films // Unrated // December 16, 2014
List Price: $16.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Jeremy Biltz | posted January 15, 2015 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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P R I N T
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The Movie:
In a lot of ways, Tara Anaise's Dark Mountain looks like every other found footage horror movie that's come out the last few years. But it's more than that. It's not that it breaks new ground or is wildly innovative. It walks the familiar paths of found footage movies before it. But it does it exceptionally well, and is a very good example of the form. This is particularly impressive as this is Anaise's first feature. So, don't be fooled by the run of the mill cover design. This is quite a good film.

Kate (Sage Howard), her boyfriend Paul (Andrew Simpson) and their friend Ross (Shelby Stehlin) take a trip to the Superstition Mountains in Arizona so that Kate can work on a documentary film about the Lost Dutchman Mine, which is located there. The project starts off prosaically enough: interviews with the colorful locals and the curator of the Superstition Mountain Museum. And then their hiking begins.

Kate has decided that she wants to make an effort to find the Lost Dutchman Mine, and catalogue it for her documentary. So, they buy the cheap list of "clues" at the museum gift shop, and schlep their camping gear into the wilderness. The first day is uneventful, though Ross is something of a prankster. And they really shouldn't have name checked Blair Witch Project, but oh well. It's on day two that things really start to get weird. They see some dead animals impaled on stakes near a cave, and of course go inside to investigate, where they find a bit of ore, and something else more disturbing. The film continues apace from here, with events getting stranger and more menacing until the inevitable deadly conclusion. (We are told at the beginning that the three disappear and are never found.)

There is a lot of cool stuff going on in Dark Mountain. The performances are natural and unforced and very affecting. The interviews are with real local folks and the answers they give are their actual spontaneous answers, and this lends a very nice feeling of authenticity and grounded-ness. The music is evocative and tonally very important for setting and maintaining the mood. There are also some very cool editorial choices, such as seeing their time around the campfire in fast motion. There are really only two points on which I can criticize the film. The first is the mention of Blair Witch noted above, which is a little too self-aware and pulls the audience out of the moment. The second is a performance choice. At one point, the trio finds a tape recorder left over from the seventies. When they play the tape inside, a fellow with a southern accent recounts the fate that befell his comrades. The voiceover is cheesy and awkward, and really takes away from what should have been a critical moment.

Other than these two instances, the film is great, and neither stumble does much to damage the experience. Overall, Dark Mountain is a lot of fun, even if it's not breaking new ground. Highly recommended.

The DVD

Video:
The image is 1.78:1 widescreen, and looks good, keeping in mind that this is a found footage movie and so the occasional flaw is intended. The beautiful scenery of the Superstition Mountains is well captured, and adds a lot to the look of the film.

Sound:
The audio is Dolby digital 5.1 channel, and works very well, in two ways. First, with the great sound design. The chirping crickets at dusk envelope us, and the soft whispers or half heard movements in the dark frighten us. Second, the driving, subtle music sounds great. No hiss or other problem can be heard, and the dialogue is always easily audible. No subtitles or alternate language track is included.

Extras:
The only extra included is eleven additional minutes of interviews with the locals. While this is pretty fun, it's a shame we couldn't hear more about what went into the making of the film.

Final Thoughts:
It's too bad that the cover art and package design for Dark Mountain make it look like a bog standard B-grade horror film. It's much better than that. So ignore the cover! Check out this movie because it's sneaky and creepy and cool and fun. This is found footage at its peak, and it deserves your attention.

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