Found Footage Fave – Final Prayer/The Borderlands (SPOILERS!)

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This movie was first released in the UK as The Borderlands and had a later release in the US in 2015 as Final Prayer. It was written and directed by Elliot Goldner. The film documents a Vatican team sent to investigate the veracity of a claim about a miracle made by a priest in a tiny parish in the English countryside.

SPOILERS BELOW! Don’t read if you don’t want to know.

Reason for Filming: The Vatican has sent a team to investigate claims of a miracle, and due to recent problems at other investigation sites, has decided they want every minute of the investigation to be documented.

What’s the Horror: Demons, Paranormal, Ancient Monster Lore

Does the Dog Die? A sheep is set on fire by some locals in an attempt to warn the investigators – you don’t see much but you do hear some awful sheep-screaming. I usually skip past this part.

Gore Factor: None until the very end, and it’s tolerable

Character Quality: Excellent. This is primarily a character-driven storyline and the chemistry between the main characters, as well as the other actors in the film, is effective and engaging.

Re-Watch Scale: Regular rotation. I love this movie.

At the heart of Final Prayer is the friendship that the two main characters, a clergyman named Deacon (which, yes, is confusing, and I questioned constantly whether or not this was his title or his name) and non-Catholic camera/sound technician Gray. Gray has been hired by the Vatican to go along on this investigation and it’s clear he is a new addition to the team – Deacon is initially not happy about his inclusion, nor is he pleased with the Vatican’s (and therefore, Gray’s) insistence that absolutely everything be recorded this time around – this includes fitting the two of them out with body cameras they are required to wear every waking second, aside from taking a shower or using the toilet. “I’ve been promoted to tripod,” Deacon grumbles as Gray forces him to put his camera on, and he’s not wrong.

It becomes clear throughout the course of the film that the main reason for all this added security is Deacon himself – it’s clearer to the audience than it is to Gray, at least, because the movie opens with a scene of a previous investigation where fraud was discovered by Deacon and his team. Unfortunately, the other members of Deacon’s team also went missing and were found dead some time later; we catch a glimpse of Deacon on a cell phone explaining to someone about how everyone vanished, and then he barks at the camera to cut away – much as he will spend a fair amount of time at the start of the movie barking at Gray.

Deacon is also displeased that a third member of the team is a priest named Father Mark Almidor. Deacon has no poker face when it comes to his displeasure with things, and his reaction to hearing from Gray that Father Mark is on his way clearly bothers him. It’s not a surprising bit of tension to inject into the film, and it’s worth paying attention to how the conflict between these two characters affects Gray’s judgment as he bonds more closely with Deacon. There are times throughout the film that Gray probably should listen more to Father Mark than he does to his new friend, but his distaste for Father Mark – who is unbearable whether or not we’re influenced by Deacon’s dislike of him – causes Gray to side more often than he should with Deacon. It’s this friendship between the hard-nosed, world-weary Deacon and the affable, loopy, and overly trusting Gray that endears the audience to them, while tragically leading Gray to his ugly fate. When Gray needs to have perspective on the situation, he is too easily led astray by Deacon – no matter how unintentional Deacon’s influence may be.

Deacon immediately gets up to his usual antics by refusing to wait for Father Mark to show up to start the investigation – a breach of protocol that Gray is appropriately wary about. But Deacon responds by basically kicking Gray’s camera around and threatening to break it, so off they go. They meet with Father Crellick, the priest of a small (like REALLY small) church that has recently caught what Crellick claims to be a miracle on camera. It was a baptism, so it makes sense that it was being recorded, and during the middle of the ceremony, as the baby starts to cry (that will be important later, as is the fact that the chapel has only been re-opened for a few months) the walls start to tremble, there’s some of rumbling sound in the background, and artifacts roll and tumble off the altar, seemingly on their own. It was odd to me personally to see Crellick immediately hold his arms up to heaven and say “Father…” as the film cuts out, as it doesn’t look at all to me like a miracle and much more like an earthquake. I can understand why the Vatican wants to investigate this one – although I know they investigate all claims of miracles no matter how convincing they may seem, and most are deemed fraudulent.

Crellick comes across as odd and more than a little shifty; he’s nervous and is shocked that his video miracle requires investigation. This strikes me as strange because I am not Catholic and even I know this is a part of the process, so it doesn’t ring true that Crellick would be insulted by Deacon’s presence and insistence on checking out the chapel. Crellick is quite young, though, and comes across as pretty unsure of himself, and it’s implied that opening this church has been a project of his for some time and he is struggling to establish it as a real presence in the rural community. None of this endears Deacon to him or leads him to believe in the veracity of his “miracle.” Gray, in my opinion, is overly impressed with Crellick’s video for a videographer and sound technician, but my guess is the movie is trying to portray Gray as a fairly gullible person early on in the proceedings. Gray keeps commenting on how convincing and amazing the video is, a fact with which neither Deacon nor the audience agrees. Obviously Deacon is jaded from years of investigating and discovering fraud, and Gray, who is not Catholic nor is he particularly religious, is all too fascinated by the supernatural aspects of the event to care. A lovely chat in a local bar draws out the first real conversation between the two; Deacon’s cynicism and Gray’s naivete are established, as well as the chemistry the two are going to build on as the story moves forward. Gray is more than willing to ask Deacon anything he pleases, and Deacon seems to enjoy sharing his wisdom on a subject Gray knows nothing about and about which he is deeply interested.

Soon Father Almidor arrives. He’s pissed Deacon started investigating before he arrived, so the two are off to a testy start. Gray, as usual, jokes and cajoles with the new member of the team, but Almidor is far less influenced by his charms (which can been seen as endearing, as I do, or as terribly annoying, which is another popular analysis of the Gray character). Since the cottage is tricked out with 24-7 cameras, as well as the chapel once Gray sets everything up, we see a few odd nighttime occurrences that are caught on film. In one instance, some people are clearly seen sneaking up to the front porch; we hear voices that distinctly sound like teenagers whispering and giggling. And then there’s the awful sheep scene, which I won’t go into detail here, but suffice it to say it’s the same group of teens trying to antagonize the outsiders. It’s never made clear why the townspeople are so hostile to the team at this point, and upon first viewing I thought it meant they were in on whatever is going on at the church, but now I’m more inclined to believe the antagonism is introduced both as a red herring and an added atmosphere among a small insular town that distrusts anyone they see as foreign, as this storyline gets dropped pretty quickly and not really resolved.

As Deacon, Gray, and Almidor spend their days investigating inside the chapel, they hear things they can’t explain. Scratching sounds, and a deep rumbling that inexplicably seems to move around the room. Father Almidor finds an open space in a wall that is covered by heavy plastic and shows clear signs of being in mid-construction; it’s clear that the recently re-opened chapel still needs a lot of work. As Almidor pulls back the plastic and peers inside – wearing his ever-present body camera – we hear a strange, electric, whizzing sound, and down Father goes, knocked unconscious and bleeding from his ear. This is another thing that is never satisfactorily explained, but it is what it is.

They take Almidor back to the cottage, where he insists no hospital trip is needed. This is probably good news, since I have my doubts there’s a hospital anywhere near their location. Almidor proves to be just as stubborn as Deacon when he wants to be, and while Gray pleads with him to get some medical help, Father Almidor simply says goodnight and skulks off to bed, leaving Gray to make a comment directly to the camera giving his own opinion of the subject to cover his ass in case Father Mark doesn’t wake up. It’s another nice moment where Gray is clearly in contrast to the other two men, who are so deeply entrenched in their acceptance of order and protocol and rules that they routinely behave in illogical ways – Father Mark has a job to do, and he’s going to do it, period-the-end. I guess he thinks God will take care of the earache? Through further conversations between Deacon and Gray, we learn that while Gray is not religious, per se, he believes in something, agrees that there’s an afterlife, and is open to the idea that God exists. In other words, Gray is probably the majority of the audience, and it works to draw us closer in to his experience. And while Deacon may be willing to buck the rules when it suits him, it’s also clear that he is still firmly committed to the comfort and routine of a deeply religious life (in an early scene, Deacon is shown removing small iconographic artifacts from a backpack and placing them carefully down on the table beside him and lighting incense, his face wearing a rare, peaceful smile) and is still capable of being clouded by his beliefs from time to time.

And speaking of Deacon and the two of them bonding in a bar – it is indicated at the beginning of the movie that whoever hired Gray also wants him to keep an eye on Deacon. There’s a phone call we see only through Gray’s perspective, where he is obviously asked if Deacon is drinking, and Gray (who already has an affinity for the guy) defends him by saying he doesn’t drink much, he’s very competent at what he does, and it’s just to take the edge off of the stress. It’s clear that Gray is on Deacon’s side here, but it’s also evident that Gray DID get warning before signing up for the job that his teammate might be a bit of a loose cannon. However, Gray comes across as the sort who respects that in a person, and he appreciates Deacon’s willingness to break the rules a little too much to see that this personality trait might be to everyone’s detriment in the end.

This is a slow burn movie, and the horror builds gradually. We get several scenes inside the chapel as the chaps investigate, and the sounds get weirder (along with the rumbling that moves around the space, there’s the occasionally crying baby – remember the baptism? – that Father Almidor writes off as interference from a nearby baby monitor, revealing a level of skepticism at least as deep as Deacon’s) and eventually, some unnaturally mobile candlesticks and even a huge crucifix falling off the wall in one of the film’s few jump scares. But to me these events were always combined with loud groaning or rumbling that indicates a moving of the earth, so I remained as skeptical as the two clergymen throughout most of the film – an intentional technique that eventually pays off in spades.

We also get a nighttime scene of Crellick – who’s been told by the team to stay away for a few days – sneaking in and praying for God to return and produce another miracle while the investigators are there. We can see it because of the cameras Gray has installed around the chapel. We can hear babies crying, rumbling and groans, and a door that slowly creaks as it swings back and forth. The next morning, Crellick is still sitting on the altar steps when the team arrives; he tells them he heard the sounds again the night before, which doesn’t do much to impress the cynics, although Gray is willing to believe him.

One afternoon, as the team is there arguing over what they each think is going on, we hear a rumble and see a candlestick leap off the altar. For a brief moment everyone is impressed, until we see stupid Crellick standing right outside the window, which is enough for Father Mark to discount the experience. Father goes chasing after Crellick, and finally catches up to him on the chapel’s roof. Crellick is upset – he knows the men don’t believe his miracle is for real, and while that’s probably enough to upset him, he also hints at something darker: if what’s going on is not a miracle, he reasons, then it must be something evil, because he knows it is definitely real, and if it’s something real and evil, did he do something to bring it about? Is he the one responsible for unleashing it, whatever it is? Father Mark attempts to calm Crellick down, and turns his head for a moment – since we are watching this from the perspective of Almidor’s head-cam, we follow his movements – and he (and we) turns back just in time to see the edge of Crellick’s robes as he topples over the tower wall and onto the ground below. Soon enough he is dead, and Father Mark decides that the investigation needs to close to avoid further controversy. He’s weary of the attention since the incident in Belem – the one where Deacon’s team ended up dead – and he wants to pack it up quietly and go home. Needless to say, Deacon does not agree.

Back to the chapel he goes by himself that night, and more spookiness ensues. He ends up getting super-freaked and running away, and immediately calls up an old friend, in direct defiance now of Father Almidor, who is supposed to be in charge, and ask for his help. Soon it’s morning, and Father Mark is pissed at Deacon for calling in Father Calvino, an old codger Almidor sees as a remnant of the Church’s past, when it still believed in demons and other hooky-spooky stuff he believes the Church needs to abandon once and for all, lest it lose all credibility. Father Calvino, it turns out, is an old mentor of Deacon’s, and a specialist in exorcisms and demon-chasing. Overall, this is odd given Deacon’s own cynicism when it comes to miracles, but it turns out Deacon’s become convinced that Crellick was right – there is something going on in the chapel, but it ain’t a miracle. And it most certainly is not of God.

Over the protestations of an angry Almidor, Father Calvino explains the history of the area, dating back to ancient times, as well as some history of the Church, that used to appropriate pagan temples and turn them into Catholic chapels rather than destroy them. Wouldn’t you know – this particular chapel was once the site of an ancient entity that pagans believed lived inside the large hill where the church is now situated. They used to pray and make sacrifices to this entity to appease it – some say they did not just sacrifice animals but possible humans, specifically babies, as well – so Calvino thinks the evil spirit of this pagan entity lives on in the chapel now; it may have been dormant for centuries, and been awakened when Father Crellick re-opened the church, or possibly when it heard that first baby cry at the chapel’s first baptism. Deacon and Gray also found an old diary in the chapel that hints at a priest centuries ago, who used the church as an orphanage and also wrote of mysterious happenings before going mad. No wonder Crellick felt guilty enough to plunge himself to his death – unless some unknown force pushed him? We’ll never know.

Off the team goes so Calvino can perform an exorcism that Father Mark is clearly against. He’s clearly outnumbered, though, as Calvino, Deacon, and Gray all now believe that there’s an evil force in the church that needs to be removed. Almidor throws a wrench into the trio’s unity by revealing to Gray the truth about Deacon’s involvement in the Belem disaster – Deacon was the lead investigator, he was told to shut things down but disobeyed, and it was through him stubbornly forging ahead that all his team members were killed. It’s clear Father Mark hopes to turn Gray against Deacon with this news to even the score, and it almost works – but in the most crucial moment of the film, when Gray should side with Almidor instead of his friend, Deacon plays the sympathy card on him to influence Gray to stick to his side.

To me, this moment is the crux of the film. It’s the climactic moment where Gray seals his own fate. We’ve watched the bond build between Deacon and Gray throughout the course of the film, and Almidor’s news causes Gray real pain. He’s hurt that Deacon would keep such an important thing from him, especially as often as the subject has come up, and his trust in Deacon is really shaken. Sure, Gray’s walking with the team back up to the chapel as if he’s going to follow along, but he’s furious with Deacon and doubting whether or not he can trust his friend. Deacon stops him to apologize and explain that he didn’t want to talk about Belem with anyone because the pain of how his actions hurt so many others is greater than he can bear. This works on Gray, and although it’s clear Deacon isn’t doing it intentionally, ultimately he uses his friendship with Gray to influence his decision. Gray cares about Deacon, and he feels pity for him for being in pain over his mistakes. He clearly sees his decision to stay with the team or go home as a test of his trust, and he realizes Deacon really needs Gray to believe in him. So after a moment of consideration, Gray makes his decision, and follows Deacon into the chapel.

It’s a fatal mistake, and after over an hour of slow burn the final act of Final Prayer kicks it up to eleven rapidly once Calvino and Co. make it into the chapel as the sky goes dark and he begins his exorcism ritual. Whatever is haunting the chapel does not respond positively, and it doesn’t take long for the walls to rumble, babies to cry, and Father Calvino to start bleeding out his eyeballs. There’s camera static and thunder and loud crashes that cause the feed to cut out for a moment – when Gray comes to, Father Almidor is dead on the floor, and Father Calvino is gone.

Deacon hears commotion in the little alcove where Father Almidor originally got his eardrum blasted (he dies, by the way, while holding his head and bleeding out his ears, as if the exorcism triggered whatever connection Father Mark now has to whatever’s going on in the chapel) and he charges down what we can now see is a spiral staircase. Father Crellick can clearly be heard, along with what sounds like Father Calvino, and while Gray takes a moment to shout for Deacon and focus in on some small bones that are evident on the stairway, he soon decides he’s had enough and turns to run out of the chapel. Unfortunately the door slams shut just as he is about to leave, and he screams a pitiful “I’m not even in this!” into the dark and empty room as he desperately tries to get the door to open. He’s right – he was just some bloke hired to do a job, and now he’s a part of whatever madness the team has unleashed.

But he doesn’t want to be alone in this creepy chapel, so he quite unwisely charges down the stairs to follow Deacon. He can hear him, but Deacon’s pretty far away, and the real terror in Gray’s voice and actions here are very convincing. Most dudes, I think, would hesitate to sound as completely fearful as the actor is willing to do here – his shrieking is high and wild, and he is sobbing uncontrollably. If the situation were not so dire, it might be funny, but as it is it’s chilling and very effective. We eventually get a jump scare as his camera light lands on Deacon – once Gray makes it down the stairs, he finds himself running through a dark tunnel, so the camera has now become a light source, which is how it will be used through the rest of the film.

Gray’s relief at finding Deacon is palpable, and it’s heart-wrenching how needy and desperate Gray is at this point. It should be a turning point for Deacon – he is haunted by how his actions hurt people in the past, and here Gray is, giving him the opportunity to redeem himself by making the right choice and turning back – but he insists on continuing instead, promising Gray repeatedly that it will be all right, and they’ll make it out alive. Whatever is going on is not supernatural, he insists, and there are no monsters here. Gray is too scared to turn back on his own, so he has no choice but to stick with Deacon, who is so drawn to the visions of Father Mark he keeps seeing in the distance, and the voices of both Crellick and Calvino that echo off the tunnel walls, to think about the very real danger into which he is leading the one person he should be trying to protect. Both Father Mark and Father Calvino, as well as Crellick, are clearly already dead, but Deacon can’t stop chasing the shadows of the men he left behind in Belem, and he loses all sense of perspective (figuratively and literally) as the tunnels get progressively more narrow and winding.

There are times when he seems to forget Gray is even there – the ultimate betrayal of Gray’s trust. After squeezing himself through a ridiculously narrow passage that opens up to a surprisingly open cave-like space, he hears Gray’s screams only to turn around (they’re both still wearing their head cams) and see that Gray has gotten completely stuck. Once again, it’s an opportunity for Deacon to be aware of how out of his element Gray is here, and how much he needs Deacon to lead him back out of the caves, but Deacon drags him through the space rather than pushing him back out, and it’s pretty clear at this point that Gray will never be able to make it back through that thing. It’s also strange – Deacon is a lot bigger than Gray, yet he made his way through that opening with ease whereas Gray got stuck. Are the tunnels – shrinking? I don’t really think they are – but I do think the movie is hinting at what’s coming with this little moment.

The two come across remnants of an ancient altar. There are markings on the wall indicating human sacrifice, and the bones of what are obviously children littered across the floor. This confirms a suspicion raised earlier about that priest who turned the chapel into an orphanage centuries ago – some more wall writings reveal that at some point this priest was overtaken by the evil of the place, and used children from the orphanage as sacrifices to what it was he believed lurked beneath. Yikes. Both Deacon and Gray are appropriately horrified. But they still see occasional glimpses of Father Mark in the distance, so Deacon is convinced there’s a way out ahead that they’re tracking down.

It’s about this time the movie sneaks up and slams the audience on the back of the head. Gray has a device on him that he sets up to provide a video feed to some distant camera, just in case they can’t find a way out and the feed gives someone information about where to find them. Still in Deacon’s wake, Gray follows him into a ridiculously narrow tunnel that looks distinctly different from anywhere they’ve ventured down there before – everything is covered in sickly green goo, and the walls underneath appear to be a strange shade of red. We see Deacon wedged into this space just ahead, and then – sickeningly – we catch a glimpse through Gray’s head cam as he shifts himself into a position where he can get inside of what’s happening behind him – the entrance to this tunnel is closing, and it looks like…a sphincter?

This is literally an oh shit moment, and when Deacon tells Gray it’s time to turn back, they can go no further, we hear the relief in Gray’s voice – thank God, we’re finally getting out of here – only to hear that tone turn to horror as he realizes the entrance is gone. Before either man can register the implications of this, the tunnel starts to move. “Dig!” Deacon shouts, and both he and Gray spend a few desperate moments trying to dig their way out of what at first appears to be a collapsing cavern, but then Gray screams, “It burns! It burns!” and we follow Deacon’s camera as it focuses in on Gray, covered in the green goo that is now secreting from the tunnel’s walls. Anywhere the goo lands on Gray, his skin begins to melt. “You said it wasn’t real!” Gray shouts at Deacon, as his skin, too, begins to melt from the secretions of what is now clearly a digestive organ. That’s right – there literally is an ancient monster underneath the chapel, and Deacon led Gray directly into its digestive tract without knowing it.

I have no words for the intensity of this scene – it’s a shock to realize what has happened here, and that the supernatural shit that’s been happening in the chapel was actually a real, living monster’s stomach grumbling and rumbling the chapel walls, causing things to fall and smash. As this horror is washing over us, we watch the fleshy organ close ever tighter on Deacon and Gray; the camera feed starts to cut out, but not before we get flashes of both of them melting away inside the churning organ. The final shot we see, after a second or two of dark silence, is poor Gray screaming in pain. The camera goes dark one last time, but not before we hear Deacon shouting out a Final Prayer for them both. The end.

Whoo! This is a movie that demands a re-watch, as it literally goes batshit in the final four minutes. The ending is quite divisive – for some viewers, it’s too much and comes at us too far from left field. For others, it’s shocking, brutal, and pretty much perfect. I am in the latter camp. While I was led to believe throughout the film that we would end up with a pretty standard demon-haunting, I instead got slammed inside the digestive tract of an ancient demon right alongside Deacon and Gray. And just like them, I never saw it coming. For me, Gray’s everyperson qualities make it easy for me to put myself in his place, and the tragedy of Deacon’s mistakes also makes him a sympathetic character. I really wanted these two to survive, and watching them die in such a horrific manner was downright painful. Also, upon second watch, I found the clues I missed all over the place the first time around, because the film had done such a good job of setting a very different set of expectations – and this, for me, reinforces the power of the ending. It doesn’t come across like something tacked on for shock value if you are able to see the signs. Sure, some of it doesn’t quite come together – I’m unclear on how the presence of some physical being can manifest the crying baby sounds, or the visions of the dead men Deacon clearly sees as he barrels way down into his own doom, or the need for a group of teens to burn a sheep, or how any of this connects to what went down with Deacon in Belem (even though there are hints of something supernatural happening there as well). But I’m willing to overlook it, because of the excellent character work, compelling premise, and slam-bang ending that left me feeling truly, deeply disturbed for quite some time. This is an excellent film, and truly one worth watching!

Found Footage Fail: Devil’s Pass (SPOILERS!)

Devil’s Pass was released in 2013 and was directed by Renny Harlin. It follows a college student and her team into the Ural Mountains where she intends to make a documentary about the events of Dyatlov Pass – a true event that happened in 1959.

SPOILERS BELOW! Don’t read if you don’t want to know.

Reason for filming: I’m in college and making a documentary but I’m mostly going to focus on filming my friends!

What’s the horror: time travel, monsters, secret government experiments

Does the dog die? No animal cruelty here

Gore factor: None really, except for a severed tongue and a missing hand that aren’t much to look at

Character quality: the worst

Re-Watch scale: Never again. Cue up Blair Witch Project for the 1,000th time instead.

The Dyatlov Pass is a pretty fascinating true story with a lot of conspiracy theories swirling around it. I think this is not the only movie made about the incident, so if you want to watch something about it I would highly recommend something else. I’ve seen this one, and it’s not worth it. It adds nothing to the original story, has poorly thought-out explanations for all the questions surrounding the original event, and doesn’t tie anything together in a satisfactory manner. I’ve said before I give my found footage films a wide latitude – a found footage film can work for me as long as it’s really good in as little as ONE area, but this movie is poor across the board. Enjoy reading about it here so you don’t have to watch it yourself. Or don’t. Whatever.

We start out with a Claire Danes lookalike explaining a wee bit about the mystery, and how she has come to plan a trip to the area to make a film. Nothing out of the ordinary here – it’s a project for a college class, and she has recruited the necessary assistants to help her out. There’s a film student friend and a few “expert” mountain climbers who are coming along with Not Claire Danes as guides. One of these other assistants is a female, a sound technician named Denise who we learn from a male voiceover is the only sound tech who could handle the – zoom in on her boobs – “physical” aspects of the trip. Nice job, movie. But hey, we get two females instead of only one this time around, which is fairly unusual for field trip/hiking in the wilderness found footage movies, so there you go. Here’s hoping she’s not the first to die (surprise! she’s the first to die).

A quick summation of the original incident: In 1959 a group of experienced mountain climbers organized a trip into the Ural Mountains in Russia. They went missing, and were eventually found dead at their campsite. The tent had been ripped open from the inside, and the hikers’ bodies were discovered in various odd states of disarray – half-clothed, no shoes, as if they’d left the tent in distress. Some right next to an old campire, others farther away as if trying to escape. Some bodies positioned in a manner that indicated they’d been trying to climb trees before freezing to death. Internal injuries, missing tongues, and other weird signs of violence. It’s a bizarre story, one with no answers and lots of rumors. Moving on.

Before our team can get on their way, we cut to the future, where reporters are breaking the news of five students from Oregon who disappeared after attempting to hike Devil’s Pass. Cut to recovered night-vision footage of Not-Claire-Danes (whose name is Holly, by the way) crying and talking about having bad dreams where she opens a door and gets swallowed by darkness. Yeah, I hate it when doors do that.

Then it’s back to the crew on a train barreling through the snow establishing their characters. Andy has a fancy phone with a GPS system he’s super-stoked about, and he also makes smarmy comments about someone’s tattoo – either Holly’s or Denise’s, it’s unclear which one, and since neither of them punches him in the face I still don’t know. Andy doesn’t care for Jensen the videographer, who calls his camera “Lucille” and touches it a lot.  Much macho ensues when Holly asks the mountain climbers what inspires them to, you know, climb mountains. The answers are long and uninspired.  Andy does it because it’s cool to be out there in the wilderness where things like fancy GPS systems don’t work or matter, which is weird given the long monologue he just gave about his cool GPS system. JP does it because he likes having everything he needs to live for a year being tucked into one backpack. Let it be known that both of these dudes will be ready to bail on this entire trip after one growly sound. But for now, they’re a big deal.

When they get to Ivdel, at the foot of the Ural Mountains, their first stop is at a mental hospital where they try to interview an old hiker who planned to go on the ill-fated original trip but ended up not going, but of course they are barred from doing so. The students do manage to catch a glimpse of what appears to be their man, holding up some sort of sign before some nurses smack it down. I’m guessing it said something like “Don’t go or you will all die” since we have to have someone offer such a warning up in these movies, but it disappeared quickly and was in Russian, so for all I know it said “send nudes.”

Cut to a bar where there are more weird foreboding reactions to the students’ destination. Then a bartender gives them some special shot of booze that he lights on fire and everyone waits until AFTER they have slammed it back to ask what it is. It’s something the doomed hikers drank before they left way back in the day. For some reason, this completely bums the entire team out. It’s the first of many strange reactions this team will have in relation to things they all clearly were aware of (they’re venturing out to re-create a tragic, mysterious event that resulted in death) before agreeing to go on this trip.

Flaming shot bartender offers to drive the team to their next destination. When they get there, Denise’s eyelids are frozen shut. Holly scratches the note she saw the old hiker hold up into the snow and asks flaming shot bartender to translate. Sure enough, it means “stay away.”

Flaming shot bartender arranges an interview with a woman who was a part of the original rescue team. Man, this guy is one hell of a resource for a random dude they just met. Maybe they can just hang in Ivdel and hang out at the bar while FSB explains everything. Anyway, Denise is working the boom mic here, so at least we know it’s not essential that she use her eyes if they freeze shut again. For the most part, there’s nothing new here if you’re familiar with the original story, except for the woman says they found eleven bodies, not nine, and that there was some sort of a machine out there with the final two. Holly asks this woman if she’s sure because the reports she’s read says otherwise, and the woman side-eyes her into silence. She does not, however, warn them to STAY AWAY from the cursed location, which makes me think she’s more insulted by Holly’s impertinence than she lets on. Go check it out for yourself, missy, and if you make it back you can challenge my recollections.

Soon enough they’re hiking through the snow, and it’s cold, and Holly is being annoying, as seems to be a requirement for the camera-wielding protagonist in setups like this. She leans into the conflict between Andy and Jensen, which seems very eighth-grade of her and also an unwise idea since it would be far better for everyone if the whole team gets along. One of the dudes tells Andy that Denise “can’t take her eyes off you,” and I am amazed at how much like a middle school lunch table this bunch is. Everyone just giggles like this is totally professional and fine for five people who are about to go hiking into a dangerous situation and really should be focused on staying alive. The weather turns on them, and in the next shot it’s gray and snowy.  Someone comments “this is awesome,” which it quite clearly is not.

They stop to set up camp and start a fire and eat roasted garbage and pretend to be fine with it. Holly continues to waste battery life by filming herself asking JP for food packing advice, then immediately proves how very much too late she waited to ask this question when JP pulls out a big package of freeze-dried something and Holly replies that she is vegetarian. It appears that JP was in charge of packing the food here, so why no one thought to discuss this before I have no idea. JP digs around in his pack some more and finds some macaroni and cheese that Holly can eat, which gets Holly through exactly one meal but whatever. This guy just got through telling us that he has enough in that backpack to last him an entire year, so I’m going to assume there are other vegetarian delights for Holly in there. Andy has whittled Denise a wooden dildo, and no you did not just imagine that sentence. Everyone laughs while I pray for an avalanche. Didn’t these two just meet? He couldn’t have whittled a damn flower first? Whatever. Denise asks what she’s supposed to with the wooden dildo, and Andy replies that he will show her later, and all this is done without Andy even looking up from his food, which is a really weird mood. 

It’s nighttime and Holly wastes yet more battery life sneaking up behind Jensen and asking him what he’s doing. How does ANY of this relate to her course project? Jensen is not responsive, so Holly snarks at him that if he “doesn’t like looking at the aurora borealis Denise’s tent is right over there,” and I’m starting to agree with that old Russian lady that Holly should probably go ahead now and wander off a cliff. What the fuck Holly? Hasn’t Andy’s interest in Denise already been established? Established in a disgusting manner, true, but still established. I know Denise is a friend of Jensen’s and all, but if Holly suspects Jensen really does have a thing for her, throwing that in his face at a moment in which it’s entirely possible that Andy is in Denise’s tent instructing her on proper wooden dildo usage seems like very much not the right time.

It’s the next morning and the hikers see weird footprints – they look like someone, or something, was walking around their camp without shoes, and the prints seem to start out of nowhere and stop just as suddenly. Immediately, Denise is all “I don’t like this no no no no no no” and it’s not the first time I wonder if none of these people understood what they were signing up for. This is confirmed when Holly and Jensen try to film some shots of the footprints and JP and Andy act like dicks when Holly asks them to get out of the frame. The fuck? I’m pretty sure they’re all there on Holly’s dime and Holly hired them to help her make a documentary so what’s with the attitude every time she tries to film? I hate these people.

Holly points out that there are actually two sets of these weird footprints surrounding them, and right after that Jensen says something about a Yeti, and she gets ridiculously angry about it. I don’t get her reaction here at all – she’s fascinated by this story about a mysterious happening on this mountain, intrigued enough to learn to hike in the snow and fly to Russia to figure it out, she’s speaking directly into the camera about how unusual the prints are because they appear to be barefoot when that’s impossible, then she argues with Jensen about his Yeti suggestion that the prints were probably just caused by a bear or a snow leopard which is NOT AT ALL WHAT SHE WAS JUST SUGGESTING TO THE CAMERA. She clearly stated that while the prints looked human, they were clearly barefoot, which makes no logical sense, and that is at LEAST as bizarre as there being a Yeti behind them, so what the fuck Holly? YOU ARE OUT HERE TO SOLVE A CONSPIRACY THEORY-LADEN MYSTERY for which you have entertained any number of insane scenarios already, and when someone suggests just one more insane scenario you call him an asshole and stomp away? If this were my project I’d be all “Fuck yeah Yeti prints! Film everything!” and immediately start annoying people with my demands to keep the camera running at all times. Because I’ve seen a lot of found footage movies and someone always has to be that person, and if I’m going to be that person I’m going to get a Yeti on camera in the process. And anyway, it’s clear that Jensen is just kidding, so screw Holly and also screw this weird-ass scene.

Cut to Holly in another spot talking about the footprints some more: “It’s as if something dropped out of the sky, walked around barefoot for an hour, then disappeared again.” OK sure but whatever you do, DO NOT MENTION YETIS. Scientific speculation only please- you know, like theorizing that someone with massive-ass human weather-proof feet dropped out of the sky and ran in circles for a while before disintegrating. Then Andy calls out another square to mark on our found footage bingo cards when he accuses Holly of “messing” with them and faking the footprints.

The terrain is starting to look really dangerous, and I am amazed anyone gave Holly a grant to do this with no experience whatsoever. Suddenly, loud growly sounds are heard, and we can be thankful at least that they aren’t coming from various characters snapping at each other. Then they see more footprints. Cue camera static. They come across an old weather tower. Holly climbs the tower because she’s plucky and determined and has a class average on the line. I don’t know guys – I once had to travel across Houston to attend a symposium for class credit, and I chose to take a zero because of traffic, so I’m hoping this is at least a graduate-level course Holly’s doing this for. Masters thesis, perhaps? Because if this is all being done for a grade in Introduction to Unsolved Mysteries 101 then I’m thinking Holly deserves what she gets.

Holly climbs the tower, opens the door, and sees – something. I can’t tell what it is. It looks like some sort of machine and then – a foot? A dead rat? I even played it back and paused it but I couldn’t tell. Whatever it is, it makes her exclaim ‘what the hell’ and fall off the tower. Everyone asks her if she’s OK, and she says yes, and no one asks her what made her exclaim ‘what the hell’ and fall off the tower and she does not bother to explain what made her exclaim ‘what the hell’ and fall off the tower. I guess no one will ever know. I’m reminded of the old Russian lady who said those two extra bodies were found with “a machine” of some kind, though – was that what Holly saw up there? And why was it sitting next to an old foot?

They have literally been on this trip for about 24 hours and Denise is all “we need to leave right now.” It seems too soon for anyone to be this freaked out. They’ve seen footprints and heard one growl. Way to commit, Denise. Then Andy grabs Denise by the arm and mutters, “come on she’s just messing with us for her own stupid reasons” as they stomp off, and I just do not get these people at all. They have no reason to assume Holly is messing with them – usually in found footage movies when someone gets the blame for making up whatever is going on, it’s a person who is an established joker or liar – but there’s nothing to suggest this is the deal with Holly. There’s something so childish about the way this is playing out, and it emphasizes how ill-equipped these emotionally immature people are to be attempting a trip like this. I’ am full-on Team Yeti now and I know nothing about Yetis but I hope they are violent creatures.  

Now Jensen is sitting on a snowy rock, wallowing in doom and gloom. He muses about mountains he’s heard of that emit sounds which cause people to go insane and posits that maybe that’s what’s happening here and again THEY HAVE HEARD EXACTLY ONE WEIRD SOUND. What is wrong with these people? Jensen couldn’t have considered these stories about crazy mountain sounds BEFORE agreeing to this trip and declined the invitation if it freaked him out? I hate to harp on it, but it’s just so clear the filmmakers are using character dialogue to try and create the mood they haven’t created through other means, and it is not working.

Holly sits down with Jensen for a heart to chilly heart. Jensen starts describing an acid trip he had in high school. Things were chasing him and he was running. Then the cops picked him up and he was shouting about aliens. And there were sounds. Growly sounds. The same sounds he heard earlier on the mountain. And…that’s it. It will actually matter later, but not much. Holly has never taken acid, but she used to have a dream where she was drawn like a magnet to a door, and when she opened the door there was nothing but darkness that swallowed her. So one day she saw a news story about Devil’s Pass and she knew right away that it was the place she dreamed of. The place that swallowed her in darkness. And somehow this means to her that she and Jensen are meant to be there. And get swallowed. By darkness. And this is a good thing? Was it a dream or a premonition? The answer’s a ways up the trail still…

Oh hey, they made it! Holly knows they’re at the accident site because she’s seen so many pictures. I guess maps are no longer a thing. Holly plants sticks in the ground with photos of the victim’s faces on them in the exact location where they died, and spray paints red body outlines next to them, which I want to be snarky about but I’m kind of into it, really. I am surprised Andy doesn’t start yelling at Holly for trying to scare them with spray paint, though, and use it as an excuse to drag Denise into a tent where they can braid each other’s hair and make prank calls. She and Jensen film a monologue about each of the original hikers and what happened to them when they died, and this bit, at least, is pretty effective. It’s the first time Holly has filmed anything that looks like a documentary I might watch. Too bad it doesn’t last.

Then Holly notices Andy looking at his GPS with a concerned scowl. She asks him what’s wrong, and he tells her it’s screwed up, and didn’t notify them when they arrived at the incident site like it should have. Holly immediately turns the tension between them back to eleven by snooting, “I suppose you think that’s my fault, too?” at him, which, seriously, Holly? You asked him a question and he answered, why not just leave it at that? These people deserve an avalanche.

Turns out it’s not just Andy’s GPS that is messed up. So is JPs watch. And his compass. All screwed. This is the “there’s no cell service” complication for this particular FF film. JP says his compass has been with him on all his hikes and it has never malfunctioned. Andy wants to call it quits, because they reached the site hours before they logically should have gotten there, which is weird, but I have to take Holly’s side here – they all knew they were hiking to a site on the side of a mountain that has been the feeding ground for tons of conspiracy theories for decades and at the first sign of the sort of weirdness they’ve all read about in the past they want to book it? So much for the bravado these dudes were spewing back on the train.

JP, Andy, and Denise all want to pack up and hike to a different location, just until their gear starts working again because they think there must be something strange going on in that particular spot. I guess they have a point. But Denise steps all over that logic by shouting “screw your footage, Holly!” at her when SHE WAS HIRED TO WORK FOR HOLLY AS A SOUND TECH FOR THE FOOTAGE HOLLY IS THERE TO SHOOT. I mean, at least come up with a better argument than the one that is least likely to convince Holly to leave. Why do none of these people understand how basic communication works between humans?

Holly then points out that people lived for thousands of years without GPS and watches and they were fine, which is AMAZING because this is the EXACT STATEMENT Andy made back on the train describing why he likes mountain climbing so much – you know, being up on top of a mountain where things like watches and GPS systems don’t exist. Even more amazing is the fact that Andy reacts as if he has never had that exact same thought before in his life, much less just 48 hours ago and RECORDED ON CAMERA.

Then we cut to Holly filming Jensen and whining about how she’s a “third wheel on date night” when she’s around Denise and Andy, and weirdly out of nowhere Jensen starts ranting about how he can’t understand why Denise wants to be with a guy like Andy who’s such a dick. So, he does like her? What is up with this chick anyway? Literally all the audience knows about Denise is that she has boobs and her eyelids occasionally freeze. I fail to see the appeal. It probably doesn’t matter because as quick as you can say ‘emotional whiplash’ Holly and Jensen are sexual innuendo-ing each other and the scene is over.

It’s darker now, and Holly has a Geiger counter, and quips to the camera that ‘without getting too complicated’ she will explain that it’s used to detect radiation. Um – how could she have made that more complicated? Probably the same way she makes interpersonal relations complicated – hey Geiger, I bet you really wanna fuck that compass.

Camera static. There’s definitely radiation in the area. More camera static. Holly follows the Geiger around LIKE IT’S A MAGNET PULLING HER SOMEWHERE. It’s getting really dark. She finds something in the snow and starts digging. Camera static. What is that? It’s a cave! Nope – it’s A DOOR! A huge safe-like door with one of those circular lock-type handle things. To convince the skittish Jensen to open it Holly actually hints that there might be a Yeti inside, which OK, cheap shot, Holly. Jensen wants to get the others, but Holly has to create more conflict in the film and widen the already well-defined unity gap in the group by insisting they not tell the others what they’ve found.

Holly continues her quest to be the worst middle school team leader ever by striking up a gossip session with JP about Denise and Andy and I want to throw her beanie-first into the campfire. JP then confirms his own awfulness by slagging on Andy as being “not boyfriend material.” Jesus, these people are all the worst. Where are the Yetis? Wherever they are, they’re not close enough to stop this madness as JP goes on to share with Holly that Andy uses his phone camera to film himself having sex with his “trail hookups.” Holly, being the worst female ever, brushes this off with a little laugh and leaves it at that. Then she immediately offers herself up as JPs trail hookup, if he’s interested. I have no words at this point.  But I am mad this movie has actually made me feel bad for Denise. Jensen shows up so Holly has to drag him into this mess, which leads Jensen to utter the phrase ‘sloppy seconds’ and I am so done with this scene.

Except the next one is even worse, because now – we’re living vicariously through Andy’s cell phone as he talks to the camera in his tent with his shirt off. Denise is in the background, obviously naked and asleep under a sleeping bag. Isn’t it way too cold for this? And not that I went back and counted but I totally went back and counted, and exactly four minutes have passed since these two said goodnight to Holly and entered this tent so, way to go there, Trigger. You are nothing if not swift. Then he swings the camera over to “meet Denise” and PULLS DOWN HER SLEEPING BAG WHILE SHE IS STILL ASLEEP, trying to expose her breasts. I hate Andy so much I want him to die, like now. Yetis, meteors, radiation, Russian spies, I do not care. Someone just kill Andy already. KILL HIM.

And then my prayer works and the scene is interrupted by rocket sounds or gunshots or something, all praise be to the Yeti god. Explosions abound, or is it an avalanche? Oh wait – it’s both. An explosion and some gunshots that start an avalanche and goddammit it better take someone down. A dude (can’t tell who) is holding Denise’s hand to help her get out of the avalanche’s path, but Denise loses her grip and falls down and the dude just – keeps running. Oh hi, Andy. Then there’s a POV shot of some sort of projectile slamming into Denise’s face, and okay movie, finally. One down.

Yes, it was an avalanche, started intentionally. Guy-fights immediately ensue over which one of them is responsible for getting Denise killed, which, dudes, calm down, she’s dead and is no longer impressed by your toxic masculinity. Seems more logical to blame the assholes who started the avalanche anyway, but whatever. One of the guys says something about “a herd of exploding mountain goats” which I really hope ends up being a real thing as it sounds way better than Yetis. Especially if one of them takes out Andy. Jensen and JP immediately start fighting over who is right about what just happened, which seems like the most useless argument ever under the circumstances but that never stops this crew from going at each other.

Oh wait – someone broke their leg. It’s Andy! Andy broke his leg, and he’s in pain! Terrible pain! Oh happy day! This movie has taken some really stupid and frustrating turns, but this right here I’m all in for. Andy says someone needs to re-set his broken leg. Ooh that sounds painful. Let’s do it! Then the asshole has the nerve to tell Jensen to turn off the camera because HE DOESN’T WANT ANYONE TO SEE HIM LIKE THIS. That’s right – the douchebag who secretly films women while he’s having sex with them doesn’t want to be caught on camera in an embarrassing position. Keep filming Jensen! Film everything! Film like the Yetis are on their way!  

The face Andy doesn’t want you to see

The dudes take a macho-man moment to re-set Andy’s leg, and he man-screams in pain. Sweet, sweet Andy pain. It restoreth my soul. And of course, Andy has the stupidest man-scream ever. Even his moans sound smarmy and overloaded with misplaced aggression.

Holly decides now would be a good time to admit she and Jensen found a door in the snow. It is not. More shouting. JP is mad they could have gone inside a bunker somewhere instead of sitting out in the cold. Then he circles back to accusing Holly of planting the footprints, which – whatever, dude, you really need to let that go. Jensen sends up a flare and makes a comment about “orange lights in the sky,” which is something that was reported in the area back in 1959. So – door and magnet dreams, acid trip growly sounds, and now orange lights. It’s all…adding up now? I guess?

It’s the next morning, and Holly displays some seriously bad judgment when the crew spots people approaching them and she starts shouting and waving and asking for help. JP points out that these hikers are carrying no gear, which makes no sense this far up the mountain, and they realize they need to leave. The climax of the movie arrives when Andy realizes he can’t make it to wherever they’re going and tells JP to leave him behind. Yay! No more Andy! There’s some back and forth while JP tries to pick Andy up and carry him but eventually Holly grabs him and tells him they have to go. She does not look particularly upset about this, and neither am I. Off they go, with JP promising to bring back help for Andy. Bye, Andy! I can only assume your death will be drawn-out and painful, and the world makes sense again.

Holly, Jensen, and JP run towards the snow-door, and shots ensue. It’s unclear where they are coming from – I assume it’s from the two hikers who were approaching them, but a camera swing in that directions shows those two being shot at also, so I’m not sure. JP gets shot while they are trying to open the snow door, but doesn’t die, so, try harder, shooters. Try. Harder.

Into the snow-door they go. JP moans a bunch, and his moans are every bit as bad as Andy’s which makes me wonder if the two actors practiced together. The noises he emits imply both “I told you so” and “this is all your fault” but with sounds instead of words. The door leads to a tunnel, which isn’t surprising. The green camera light goes on. Jensen finds a power switch and tries it out, which seems unwise, but instead of blowing them all up it just turns the lights on. JP and Jensen are still fighting about what might be going on here – JP wants to barricade the door while Jensen insists that no one is coming after them; whoever is behind all of this just wants them to die with the least amount of effort possible on their part, is his thinking. JP predicts a slow death due to starvation and hypothermia, but he’s holding his arm where he got shot so who knows JP, you might get lucky and bleed out first. A girl can dream!

Jensen states the obvious – they have to find a way out. We get some pretty cool shots of underground tunnels that fork off in two directions; there are lamps on the walls lighting the way that create nice pools of light on the walls and floors. There’s a small explosion ahead down the tunnel in the direction they were heading, so off they go in the other direction. It looked to me like one of the light bulbs exploding, and sure enough, all the lights go out at that point.  

Holly screams and when the camera swings around and catches JP in the night vision Jensen’s using again, he looks like a zombie in a straightjacket due to how he’s holding his arm, which explains Holly’s screams until I figure out who it is. Holly felt something, and she knows there’s something in there with them. But they don’t see anyone. The lights flicker on again. They walk down a different hallway and into a strange room, and more lights pop off around them, confirming it’s just the power blowing things out that’s causing the explosions. They’re in some sort of laboratory, and this is where the limitations of my video copy fail me. I was watching this on a cell phone, and that’s on top of the fact that the movie is already a little crappy in its original form since it’s found footage, so it’s really hard for me to see what’s going on from this point on. I’ll do my best.

JP gets back to man-moaning and has to sit down. Holly stays with him while Jensen wanders around, pointing his camera at the surroundings. He discovers some paperwork on a desk and calls Holly over. She says she’s seen the big book of files before – it’s page after page of documentation of people who were “killed in action.” She’s seen it in various reports and stories about the incident. All documentation stops in 1959, the year the hikers were killed. I guess that’s a clue? Holly shuffles folders around some more, and Jensen stops her when he sees a photo of some ship he recognizes as being used in the “Philadelphia experiment.” In order to help the audience, JP asks what that is. Jensen history-shames him before explaining the top-secret crazy human experiments that totally should not be documented and recorded in whatever secret laboratory they’ve found here inside death-trap mountain. It sounds like Holly doesn’t know about it either, but Jensen does not accuse her of living under a rock, like he does JP. Maybe it’s wishful thinking. There’s a rock around here big enough to squash JP, Jensen, I’m sure of it.

Jensen reveals more about the Philadelphia thing – the US Government was experimenting with teleportation, apparently, and a bunch of people were turned into mush as a result. Holly is flipping through photos now, but the version of the movie I’m watching makes it impossible for me to figure out what they are. I’m assuming it’s mush-people. Holly wants to move on, but JP can’t get up. They’re leaving him, but they’re totally coming back for him once they find a way out. So long, JP! You will not be missed.

Holly and Jensen forge ahead through another door and cough a lot. Jensen says something about a naturally formed cave. Holly calls him a spelunker. Are they flirting again? Holly finds some sort of nuclear power – box? Reactor? I can’t tell, but she immediately says “Alexander was here” and at first I think she’s reading graffiti that was scrawled on it until I remember that was the name of a member of the hiking group back in 1959. “This is where he picked up the radiation,” she says, sounding very confident that she’s right, which, OK movie. I’ll allow it if it moves things along.

They open another door. It’s dark. There’s a dead dude strapped to a table. Some military guy. Holly says something about a secret and keeping the secret and then she weirdly yanks open his mouth and FINALLY we find out what that foot/rat thing was at the top of the weather tower; it was – this guy’s tongue? Really? Now I definitely need to go back and look again because to my recollection dude’s tongue was HUGE.

Holly’s theory is that this military dude, who clearly was alive until recently, was sent to kill the five of them so that whatever secrets the mountain holds will stay secret. Then whoever sent this guy to do this had to be killed, since he knew too much. Soldier, I could have told you that this crew has figured out NOTHING and you might have kept your life. And your tongue. Oh well. Have I mentioned yet that none of this is scary? And none of it explains why the soldier’s tongue was cut out and stuck in a weather tower. Holly has an explanation that involves experiments and “letting something out” which is why the door was unlocked. Swinging the camera around the room, they see piles of bones. It’s an execution room, Jensen posits. Or rather, was. Or maybe still is given the tongueless dude strapped to a table who was clearly alive until recently. One of the original hikers had a missing tongue when they were found, so maybe this soldier is really that hiker? I have no idea.

There is a note tucked inside a pile of bones, which is jarring. A folded-up piece of paper is just nestled into a bone-pile? It’s a photo of one of the soldiers who was in that book they found of people who were killed in action. I’m not interested in this at all. In fact, I’m starting to think I’d rather watch Andy and Denise go at it back in that tent. At least I know that would end in four minutes. Did anyone save Andy’s phone?

“I don’t understand,” Holly says. Agreed, Holly.

“They don’t look right,” Jensen says, referring to the skeletons. I can neither confirm nor deny. Holly wonders if one of these freaky skeleton things is what the tongueless soldier let out. I’m sure the movie is dropping all this as clues to the puzzle, so I’m trying to put them together, but there’s a growly sound and Holly’s face in that moment sums up how I’m feeling right now:

More growly sounds. Jensen continues to ask what is that? after every growl and dude, literally no one can explain that to you, possibly not even the filmmakers, so stop asking. Honestly at this point, who cares anyway? If Mr. Growly doesn’t get ya, the tongue-cutters will, soooo…50/50?

There’s an open door Jensen thinks wasn’t open before. Through it they go. Holly thinks someone is there with them. Jensen focuses the camera on meat hooks hanging from the ceiling. There’s blood. Then Jensen spies something on a table on the far side of the room. What is it? It’s – a camera. Wait, it’s their camera? It’s still on, but the battery is almost out, so Jensen tells her to check what’s on the flipscreen quickly before the camera dies. Its Holly and Company back when they were trying to get in to interview that old hiker, and I swear at one point it sounds like someone on the recording says “Come On Eileen,” which is amusing. Holly fast forwards to see what else has been recorded, and when she hits play again, it’s a scene of her finding this camera and watching the scene on it with the crazy hiker in the window. Jensen mentions teleportation again and how it’s rumored the ship time-traveled during the Philadelphia Experiment and showed up somewhere ten minutes before it had even left, and no one was supposed to know about it, and the people involved in the experiment who didn’t die not only went crazy but somehow “changed,” so I guess the camera they just found is their camera from the future, and they are some sort of time-traveled manifestation of themselves running around this tunnel. I’m thinking of how Andy said they arrived at the accident site hours earlier than they should have, so I guess they all got sucked into some time portal right before that? It’s kind of cool, but getting the reveal via Jensen’s exposition is awkward.

There’s no time to figure it all out because we hear some crazy screams which I try to identify as maybe being one of them in another time dimension but I cannot. They come across something, or someone, in a cage, but for the life of me I can’t tell what it is. However, I have watched this whole movie now and I can tell you it doesn’t fucking matter. So let’s move on. Maybe Jensen will continue to provide ongoing commentary about everything that’s happening to help us along.

20 minutes left in the movie and finally – MONSTERS! A creepy stretchy skinny humanoid looking thing with a really wide mouth (mind your tongue, monster!) and he grabs Jensen by the forehead and  – does things. The camera (I don’t know who is filming now) pans over to see Holly swinging a chain over her head and then – swear to god – chain-flinging a couple of creatures away from her, which is HILARIOUS. We’ve gotten absolutely ZERO indication that Holly would be able to pull off a Wonder-Woman move like this, and nothing remotely super-heroish has happened at any point up until now, so this is just ridiculous. And you can tell by the way they set up the shot that it was supposed to be super-impressive. It’s completely silly.  

She runs over to the camera and talks to it like it’s Jensen, so he was filming? Who knows. It doesn’t matter because the two skittery creatures nab Holly, and much camera static and jerky movements ensue. Then they’re running, and it turns out they’re going back for JP. Skittery creatures leaping about. They’re on the ceiling. We get a shot of JP sitting in the same corner, and he’s had his hand torn off somehow so he’s sitting there on the floor sort of flapping his stump around. Jensen zooms in on it, which is a nice touch although I doubt JP would appreciate it. It doesn’t matter, because JP has either turned into a skittery creature or one just ate him. Either way a skittery creature is where JP used to be, so off we go again.

Another vault-like door. They just make it in before the creature gets them and they lock it out. Why haven’t any of the creatures killed them by now is what Jensen wants to know. There’s some sort of freaky tunnel ahead of them that looks WAY too much like the one in “Final Prayer” and I do not want to go through that again. Holly has the same idea, because she suggests turning around and taking their chances with the skittery bunch. No, Jensen says, you saw what they did to JP. They’ll do the same to us. They chased us here on purpose. This is where they want us to be. But – that is very decidedly NOT what they did to JP. They ate his wounded ass. So…try again?

Holly throws a rock or something into the tunnel and it lights up for a second and again I think of Final Prayer and I really (SPOILER!!) don’t want to see someone get digested again. But nope, it’s some sort of teleportation tunnel. They find ancient drawings on the wall, indicating whatever the tunnel is has existed for centuries. Jensen keeps throwing out theories. Aliens. Other portals all over the world. The monsters traveling around in time through this portal. “It makes sense,” Jensen says. No one agrees. Jensen’s flashlight dies, and in reaction to this Holly immediately says she can’t see, and yes, that’s how it works, Holly. Light go out, lady no see.

Now the camera is back in night vision, and we see the footage that was shown on the news coverage at the beginning of the film. Holly talking about a dream – the dream she talked about with Jensen back in her flirting days about magnets and doors and darkness. More monsters please – the movie makes no sense and it is seriously slowing back down to a crawl.  Jensen makes more suggestions – the monsters skitter back and forth through time regularly, and are the cause of basically every weird UFO or creature sighting in the universe, I guess, which is a seriously anti-climactic conclusion to some seriously good conspiracy theories and UFO sightings. I’m not buying it. Stick to trying to solve the mystery right in front of you, Jensen, and leave the rest to another found footage movie.

Jensen’s suggesting mind power to escape the bunker or wherever they are and there are still fifteen minutes in this thing. As soon as I have that thought Holly says “We’re going to die here Jensen” and, yep, she read my mind. Maybe she teleported into my head! If she did sorry for all the hate Holly. But in my defense, you aren’t much fun to watch. Maybe they can get Claire Danes for the sequel.

They stand on the edge of the portal or whatever it is and Holly quotes Slaughterhouse Five. Thanks for reminding me of a way more entertaining story I could be focusing on right now, lady. They hold hands and step into what becomes a very bright light. Cut to their legs in the snow outside the portal and HOW ARE THERE STILL TEN MINUTES LEFT IN THIS MOVIE?

Two mountain climbers approach their frozen legs. Russian military swoop in with guns and try to send them away. “But they found all the hikers already,” says the male climber. “Who are they?” The soldiers try again to shoo them off, and then the female climber starts to argue. “We want to help,” she says. Shoo shoo away, the Russians say. Then they drag Holly and Jensen’s frozen corpses out of the camera frame, while the female climber questions them, what are they doing? How can they just move the bodies away without investigating the crime scene? They don’t even know who these two are! Ah, hello, old Russian lady from the beginning of the film who knew there were eleven bodies found on the side of the mountain back in 1959 and not nine. Nice to see you again. *Wink*

One of the soldiers picks up the camera – still filming – and carries it into the snow cave with the bodies. We see Holly and Jensen being wheeled into the facility on gurneys, where Russian military is now bustling about, sitting at the same empty tables Holly and Jensen found earlier (or is it…later?)

A soldier tries to store Holly and Jensen’s bodies “with the others,” but are instructed by the man with the camera that “Dr. Mintenko” will want to take at look at them separately. Into the old tongue-cutting room we go, this time busting with more military. Someone’s body is on a table but I can’t see whose – whoever it is, the men are noting how odd the clothes are and how they’ve never seen outfits like this one. JP? Andy? Denise?

Someone instructs the guys to put Holly and Jensen’s bodies into a special room. Yeah, the meathook one. First one, then the other body is hung on the meathooks, and we can see that they are now freaky and skittery-looking and frozen. “Let’s get out of here,” one of the soldiers says. “This place gives me the creeps.” Off they go, and the camera gets tilted a bit as if it’s been tipped over. But it’s still filming. We see more clearly that Holly and Jensen are now freaky skittery creatures. As we somehow manage to zoom in on the two frozen corpses, their heads slowly tilt upwards, and the camera focuses in on a tattoo behind freaky-Holly’s ear that I think is supposed to confirm it’s her. So I guess Holly is the one Andy made a smarmy comment to way back in the beginning of the film when there was still a sense of hope that this movie might make sense.

The end. Who cares.

This movie is a damn mess, and it’s a shame. There’s a good story to be told about what happened on Dyltalov Pass in 1959, but this ain’t it. The characters are awful. The plot twists make no sense. And none of it adds anything to the lore of the original story. All I can suss out is that Holly and Jensen definitely time traveled back to the original incident and that’s how the Russian woman saw “a machine” (their camera) and two extra bodies. Whether or not ALL of the crew time-traveled is unclear. Is it possible they were all a part of the original nine? I don’t think so, because it seems the movie would have then added five extra bodies to Russian lady’s count, not just two. But it does appear that there was some sort of time jump they all experienced when arriving at the accident site. But even that is unclear. And the presence of the skittery creatures seems unnecessary – if the movie had just left it with Jensen and Holly being stuck in some time loop where they have traveled back into the past and in the present are encountering themselves throughout the trip leaving weird footprints (although the freakiness of the footprints requires them turning into skittery creatures) as they time travel in and out of the portal stalking themselves, I guess I could have accepted that. But this movie bit off way more than it could chew – vegetarian or not – and in the end it just puked out a big old mess. Do not recommend.