Dark Mountain (2013) – By Baron Craze

Director and writer Tara Anaise with a story from Tamara Blaich, marks her debut in the found-footage horror genre, which for unknown statistically reasons and lack of data, shows, many women directors avoid the sub-genre. Nonetheless, Tara’s film begins honest intentions center on discovery of gold, and consequentially a lust for greed, with the exploration of the Superstition Mountains of Arizona, a very real place, and searching for the Lost Dutchman mine, a location many individuals vanish from in some manner.

Now with this premise it sounds like an interesting tale, one has greed, and a real location, but this tends to fall into the found footage, with thanks to the movie poster and the summary of the movie, in March 2011 three filmmakers disappear in a documentary of region but the found footage survives. The storyline follows Kate (Sage Howard) and her friends Paul and Ross portrayed by Andrew Simpson and Shelby Stehlin respectively, though a rivalry exists deeper, with emphasis on jealously. Paul, is Kate’s boyfriend and Ross, is a friend, though seeks more than just friends title, add in the lust for the gold, and vastness brutality of the landscape, snakes, coyotes, strangers, stinging whipping winds of dust and small pebbles and the wrong clothing shows the inexperience of this team early on in the film. For the most part this film sounds itself in non-fiction, involving the legend of Jacob Waltz’s rumored treasure in the region, much conflicting data and stories rotating on whether it is real or just another wild fantasy told on the deathbed. Sadly, the movie never goes very far into the background, except noting the previous adventurers missing and presumes dead, after ill-fated journey into nature’s playground. Many people, urban dwellers and college students often  believe they can outsmart the elements, and feel surviving in nature for a five-day trek  as no big deal, and perhaps that naïve mentality plays into movie, but never explore deeply to the paranoia of victim to nature vindicated manner to trespassers basis their motives on fact finding masking the greedy desires.  Needless, for the audience, this falls out play and the continuation to haunting unease mixed with possible suggestions of the causes of vanishing individuals attribute to UFO abductions, specters, ancient civilizations’ curses and vortexes, the only things not mention, Hillside Cannibals and prehistoric creatures. Any or all of these suggestions laid out a really messed up plot and yet more interesting than aimlessly walking about the terrain, and returning to wrecked campsites, though this group of friends experience a mountain man, triangle lights, and even unholy possessions.

The viewer does tend to find the lost, and perhaps intentional to one questioning everything presented to themselves, as the characters do the same, during the documentary, which suggest of time travel through the worm-holes and leaving to alien encounters or just extreme exposure to the heat and the sun zapping all senses of one. If this is the case of Anaise then a successful swing for the fences, though must believe rather an unintentional consequence,  and that the tensions on the screen surrounding their hopeless plight in life, and several wrong choices in the sacred lands of the Apache people, known to them to belong to the Thunder God. Although, this journey is more than just a found-footage film, it represents the dedication of an entrepreneurial filmmaker on the tightest low-budget horror film with a shooting schedule of six days, this again shows the breakdown of the concept of found footage movies, and the cast remains alive.  

While Anaise, gives a full effort for her film, the problems mount quickly from, the sickening shaky camera work to mixed audio and poor sound quickly which again, might lead one to believe the found footage account, and the amateur skills, however one recalls Kate’s character a budding filmmaker knows her gear, and so does most owners of Smartphone. However, overlooking the technical issues none the possible suggestions of reasoning come to the surface in a conjoin method, no scientific reasoning no investigating reporting, leaving everything to personal interpretation. One key psychological aspect did play great part in the movie, and actually seemed impossible for both to co-exist, the claustrophobic conditions of the mountain terrain watching down on these three insignificant specs in the vastness of natures’ threats while the paranoia of the growing tensions overwhelms the team and gives varying degrees of paralyzing fears mirroring effects of agoraphobia.  

Overall, the film fills the proper time, some will experience a bit restlessness, with the buildup time, painstaking too slow, the limitations of people preys more negative, and never develops until halfway to through the movie. Many filmmakers seek out the careful balancing act of tension and scares, the scares lack herein, but the opportunity of a mockumentary had the visible but never bit on the angle unlike that of Mortal Remains (2013). The found footage sub-genre, has glimpses of success but recapture the glory of The Blair Witch Project (1999) might nearly impossible to ever conquer the audiences again, except with homage scenes as it happens herein, look for it carefully tastefully and classical done. The audience needs to wonder what’s next for Anaise, maybe venture down the path of psychology thriller she definitely presented some wonderful moments of it with Dark Mountain.