DIRECTOR: Nick Szostakiwskyj
WRITER: Nick Szostakiwskyj
Marc Anthony Williams
Set in the remote wilderness of Canada. A group of archaeologists uncovers a strange structure that has been buried in the snow. The crew now believes that the structure that they have discovered maybe tens of thousands of years old and they think that they have uncovered something extraordinary. As they unearth the structure further, paranoia and mistrust start to set in, they all begin hearing and seeing voices within the wilderness that surround them. Is the discovery of the structure to blame?
Black Mountain Side is a bit of a conundrum as an overall viewing experience. It really depends on how you find the finished film. You will either see it as an enjoyable, low-budget homage to John Carpenter's The Thing or a complete rip-off. As The Thing is my all time favourite film, I took this entire experience to be that of a loving homage. While I've read many reviews that claim Black Mountain Side is a blatant robbery of the classic Sci-Fi Horror film. It just manages to fall into safe territory with me. The film isn't without its faults, though.
The movie was made back in 2014. It initially screened at several horror-themed film festivals over two years and finally saw a straight to DVD/VOD release in early 2016. I don't believe it was even picked up by any worthwhile studio of mention. I, myself am not sure as to why the film didn't get picked up for release for close to two years because while the film has its fair share of problems, it's not all bad and it does cater to the science-fiction horror crowd.
The story begins kind of similarly to The Thing. We are slowly introduced to the all-male crew who are in a remote, snow-covered location, and they uncover something sinister hidden in the ice. We even have a scene where our main protagonist who is sat by the radio is drinking some whiskey while playing a game on his laptop. I think the director must be a big fanboy of John Carpenter. It seriously shows so much over the course of the hour and a half running time. The film is littered with references to The Thing. It just can't be overlooked.
The pacing of the movie is quite a slow build. Throughout we have scenes that hint that a much darker ending is coming. The gradual build towards the third act and final is somewhat enjoyable, though. I saw quite a few reviews that wrote it off as terrible. I felt that the build-up was not at all a bad thing here. The scenes that I talked about above are of the most gruesome kind. Little bits of gore that I wasn't expecting end up splashed across the screen, and I loved every minute of it. I think the violence will be a favourite with the gorehounds if they don't find anything else to enjoy the film.
I found the acting in the film to be somewhat substantial. The entire cast does a good job of portraying the paranoia that comes with isolation from your everyday life. No one was a standout regarding performance as most of the cast is together in small confined cabins for a majority of the film's running time and when the violence does start happening. The actors all commit to the absolute craziness of the situation they are placed in. The cast deserves a point or two for giving us some seriously crazed and paranoid performances.
The most prominent issues that I had with the film is the third act. The movie slowly builds with a decent amount of dread. Once the mistrust, paranoia, and the demonic voices start to set in. I was still very much onboard with the film. The creepy shadows that were hiding in the wilderness had me second guessing what the movie would end up eventually revealing. Once the creature is finally shown to be an evil deer that is planting the seeds of mistrust, I found the overall reveal a tad creepy yet ridiculous. The film is clearly a tale of isolation causing the entire crew to go insane, but that reveal had me almost rolling my eyes and left little to be desired.
Another problem that Black Mountain Side faces is the many unexplained plot points that are thrown at the audience but never explained. It's revealed early that a similar discovery of a structure was found and the uncovering of the structure caused people to die of a disease. When the first victim gets an autopsy done. It's explained that the virus he contracted wasn't human, and it was, in fact, octopus DNA. While it's pretty interesting, it's never touched on again. Once the deer appears, our cast goes insane and start killing each other. A lot of things never add up by the time the credits roll. We are left wondering why and how.
I'll finish on a positive. Black Mountain Side has some gorgeous cinematography. The scenes in the snow-capped wilderness of Canada are stunning. The movie is also very well filmed for a production of this type of budget. While the film doesn't have all that many special effects, complex creature design or overly tricky camera shots. The film still looks like it's cost a lot more than the standard indie film of this type. A decent looking film on a pretty small budget.
DEATH TOLL: 8
BLOOD AND GORE:
- An arm is hacked off with an axe.
- A cat is cut up into pieces.
- A hand is cut off with a knife.
- The aftermath of a bullet to the brain.
- Someone's throat is hacked open and wrists sliced open.
- Someone is shot in the face.
- A leg is caught in a bear trap.
- Someone's head is crushed to a pulp with a rifle handle.
Black Mountain Side is a movie that has its fair share of problems. The film is far from perfect. Even with its somewhat messy third act and several plot points being pushed off to the side and never heard from again or explained. I still found this homage to John Carpenters The Thing, a somewhat entertaining science-fiction horror film. The film has a few solid moments of gore, and the slow build in the beginning and middle of the film are worthy. It just all sort of falls apart in the end. Still, Black Mountain Side is worth visiting at least once.