Sunday, November 30, 2014

B.I.T.S. 2014 Film Review - Black Mountain Side

Isolation is a key elements in any good Arctic Thriller. Another is the introduction of a foreign element something to the group. The foreign agent can be alien as in John Carpenter's The Thing or viral as is the case in Nick Szostakiwskyj's Black Mountain Side. 

A group of scientific specialists are stationed at Outpost 291 in the Taiga Cordillera ecozone the most northern outpost in the Yukon. Their link to the South is a radio where they call in their weekly supply needs to Ranger Station 9. The area is so far north that both that supplies and people have to be helicoptered in ever since the last supply plane attempting the trip froze and fell out of the sky. Into this group arrives Dr. Peter Olsen (Michael Dickson) an Archaeological expert from the University of Toronto who has come to investigate an unusual structure the team has begun to excavate. The group are hopeful that the structure will be a significant find confirmed by Dr. Olsen leading to more grant money for the project.

However in the passing days things begin to change. First the base cat is ritualistically dismembered and displayed at the dig site, next the workers from the reserve 90 miles to the South all leave during the middle of the night headed north to certain death, then the crew start showing symptoms of illness, some physical, some psychological but all become paranoid and suspicions of each.  On top of all this they can no longer reach Station 9 cutting them off from the outside world.

Writer Director Nick Szostakiwskyj builds an intense psychological drama moving at a rhythmic slow burning pace. The effects on the individual crew members are quite subtle at first then ratchet up with the first physical manifestation of the virus then slowing to minor irritations amongst the team of each others behaviour before surging quickly past the original shock level to a heightened intensity that's maintained for final stages of the piece.

The ensemble cast looks the part presenting the material well although Carl Toftfelt's (Francis Monroe) did present a challenge picking up all of his dialogue from time to time. The strongest part of the groups performance is how they embrace and carry out their self inflicted or projected acts of madness with an eerie level of calmness.

Black Mountain Side is a well-crafted production. It quickly establishes the conditions at the camp at the outset. The archaeological elements; carbon dating, mesoamerican tagging, Pharaohs revenge are presented in a plain non lecturing manner.  The cast are solid as they battle a mainly invisible or  internal enemy. It is a film that I can recommend.

*** Out of 4.

Black Mountain Side | Nick Szostakiwskyj | Canada | 2014 | 99 Minutes.

Tags: Yukon, Plague, Carbon Dating, Horror, Amputation, Voices, Autopsy, Hieroglyphics, Artifacts, Shrine, Temple.

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