Black Mountain Side
Dir. Nick Szostakiwskyj (2014)
A group of researchers at a remote arctic station discover an ancient temple buried in the snow. Between the isolation and the presence of the temple's deity, they soon find things a lot less boring.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
I spent about five years living in the state of Maine, and coming from Georgia, let me tell you, it was quite cold. Beautiful, yes, but shockingly cold, all the time. I would stand outside shoveling snow, and occasionally I would stop, look into the night sky, and realize that I couldn't hear anything at all. There were no blaring horns, no hustle and bustle of civilization... in fact, there were no other sounds alerting me to the presence of other people at all. And this was in a relatively big city for Maine. It was really cool, realizing that I could walk for miles and never see another person, all the while trapped in my own personal snow globe. It felt like I was the only person on Earth, and as the snow drifted slowly down, it became clear to me why some people love living so far north. And then, when the falling snow began to freeze to my beard, and then the realization that I could walk for miles and never see another person, I began to remember why I didn't like living in Maine. The isolation was absolutely terrifying. Black Mountain Side explored the very real isolation that you would feel living in a remote outpost, and it does so excellently. You're alone, even when you're around other people, simply because you're so far away from anyone not in your little group. Director Nick Szostakiwskyj manages to make a film that brings the audience into the characters' isolation and paranoia, with an atmosphere reminiscent of The Thing, although perhaps a little less remote.
Our team of researchers discover a weird, MesoAmerican structure with no idea where it came from. After calling in an outside opinion, they realize that there was no way that this object could've come from the time period that it appeared to, and when the indigenous workers they have helping them find a mangled cat at the base of the "temple" the next morning, things start to get a little less ordinary. What we're left with is a slow burn of a movie, with scenes of batshit insanity, and a build of quiet isolation and paranoia that jumps through the screen into the viewer's mind. The acting was excellent for an indie film. I especially appreciated the unwilling madness portrayed by Carl Toffelt, who introduces the audience to the outstandingly creepy deer creature that seems to be behind all of the terror. There was just something about the "villain" that unnerved me. I remember specifically feeling like this was something I shouldn't be looking at, something that I was not meant to see. It was a really weird, otherworldly feeling, building dread and paranoia that something was watching me. Quite intense, actually.
Toftfelt starred, for me, amongst a surprisingly adept cast.
Szostakiwskyj does an amazing job in this film. The use of sound is absolutely incredible, in that he just doesn't. There is no music in the entirety of the film, the only background noise the harsh wintry wind that the characters are forced to endure. This further lends to the tension and segregation from anyone who could possibly help. The writing was very believable, well written and delivered especially well for an indie production. I was actually surprised at how much I enjoyed the film, and especially how much I was actually scared while watching. I'm not an easy scare, for sure, but I actually felt the need to look over my shoulder during Black Mountain Side. I appreciated that, not many films do that to me anymore. The cinematography was outstanding, placing the viewer amidst the growing madness and desolation the characters are beginning to feel, and buckling us right in for the thrill ride the movie eventually becomes. And holy shit that deer man. Really creepy. It was goofy, it shouldn't have been... and yet it was scary as hell.
Who this movie is for: Indie horror fans, Isolationist horror lovers, Deer hunters Bottom Line: I highly recommend Black Mountain Side for anyone who enjoys the isolationist horror film, like The Shining or The Thing, which this film compares well with. Obviously it's not going to carry the weight of those two classics, but it's a surprisingly brilliant effort by Szostakiwskyj and company. I love my indie horror, and while not much scares me, this one really hit me hard. Between the excellent cinematography, the near-perfect sound design, and the stellar acting, this is one of the best indie horror movies I've ever seen, period.