Have you heard of this one before, a group of men mainly archaeologists held in distant cabin in the woods in the north during a Canadian winter find something in the ground? Well, Black Mountain Side brings together another chapter in this version but with some twists to work on the basic concept all thanks dense and intense nightmare writer and director, Nick Szostakiwskyj had, clearly showing the also influenced of John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982). The psychological thriller wrapped inside a mystery that taps into several aspects such Native mythology, isolationism, and the usage of science as an accurate tool, rather than just foolish make-believe. This Canadian paranoia film relies less on straight horror and more the beast with man himself, showing a natural response of men losing touch with reality under incredible influence real or imaginary left to the viewer to decide.
From the opening, sequence the capturing of breathtaking beauty found in the snow-covered wilderness understanding the fearful welcoming of man to nature’s wilderness holding all the power to crush those that intend harm to the landscape. After all, humans truly hold no real power against nature when it strikes back; her weapons contain a vast array to mess with the physical and psychological attribute of our race. The swooping wide shots show both wide openness and the vastness of how little one is to the elements of the bitter coldness and how powerless a scream for help could affect oneself. For out in the brutal realization of the elements realize that civilized world was all but nonexistent surrounding oneself in an endless whiteout and hidden bear traps for safety. As expected in this type of story the regular characters appear full bearded woodsman team Leader Myles Jensen (Shane Twerdun), Drew McNaughton (Timothy Lyle), and the bellowing boisterous Robert Michael Giles (Marc Anthony Williams), the field-operations chief and a series of locals to work as general helpers at the dig round out the main group of men. A team of field researchers are on the site of a breakthrough and mysterious structure archeological find that has the potential to turn history on its ear, herein and exceptional creation of the story designing a believable conundrum in historical evidence at site 100 miles from the nearest native reservation. Assisted by the facts and the danger of the region , five hours of sun during the day and minus-50-degree temperatures at night, a scientific party finds The tip of a stone monument that bears every indication of being Mesoamerican – in a place 4,000 miles from the nearest known Mesoamerican civilization. Overlooking all the technology of ground penetrating radar, when unsure how big or what it is, and breaking protocol they start exposing the site to the elements of the climate, meanwhile an expert is called in to help with the situation. Professor Piers Olsen (Michael Dickson) joins the team and proves as worthwhile devil’s advocate with the questions and few answers his presence adds to the balance of the film and scenes. The film heightens the pace shortly with the locals taking off for their reservation with an impassible winter storm barreling in the campsite. One of the crew members starts vomiting black sludge and the medical doctor (Andrew Moxham), who remains remarkably calm for a physician who has to diagnose an ancient disease. They struggled to keep sane, focus on their troubles and add in communication problem, stressed nerves, dead quietness and mounting disease members. Sometimes some things best left uncovered.
Obviously, for the horror fans, much of the movie appears eerily similar to other films, and therein lays the dilemma for Szostakiwskyj instead of repeating the past he takes the audience’s familiarities and creatively plays with them including some bizarre psychosis elements too. He conveys the endless stillness of the atmosphere in and out of the cabins, the echoing of silence increasing deafening and shows the frailty of human life in the wild, a place two very brisk days’ walk from anything and anyone. The gore does flow exceptionally well, for example cutting an arm off with an axe, bloodstains on windows, and animal mutilation, not everything is a cut away shot, a refreshing change from the standard. Now the comparisons of The Thing list themselves as checklist for making sandwich paranoia and crew personnel mumbling strangest scenarios, physically transformations yes all included. The movie falls squarely into the sub-genre of the isolationist horror film, many times over while already mentioning the connection to the Thing (1982) other movies present themselves clearly such as The Thaw (2009) with similar plot a research expedition to the Arctic discovers that a melting polar ice cap has released a deadly prehistoric.
Black Mountain Side gains traction with the assistance from the help of the camera work Szostakiwskyj and director of Photography Cameron Tremblay (who also served as both Producer and Station 9 voice) use smooth fluid shots to garnish insanely creepy screen captures. They bring a bit of Hitchcock’s Rope into the frames, a film that used one location, and herein the cabins act as tombs trapping the men in rooms and minds at the same time. They avoid using music, not allowing the viewer to escape from the feeling of trap in a box rather caught in the situation to suffer along with the others.
The mayhem does ensue and snarls against the team in several of teasing and demoralizing manners, with a very slow boiling point, to ease the audience in and the cook them in spiraling descend of madness. Normally a movie like this finds IFC stepping up for it, but rather Monarch Home Entertainment, takes the reign and delivers this flick for both the thriller and horror fans. Szostakiwskyj does a solid job of presenting elements from The Shining to flick, and keeps the pace tight, only losing brief moments of suspense but the creative shots allow for a strong story for one to enjoy.