Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Watch Instantly Watch: Donner Pass

I don't usually get enthusiastic when a horror film's premise involves a group of teens going anywhere or doing anything. It's a template that's served often and reached a fine meta place with The Cabin in the Woods and Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. OK, there's the "Tuesday the 17th" segment of V/H/S also.

But I've seen it enough. I was a little sad that framework provided the underpinning for Dead Snow with its hordes of Nazi zombies.

I'm not sure why I clicked on Donner Pass as a Netflix watch instantly. The description warns it's about teenagers on a ski trip. Maybe the name Donner Pass spurred the override. That incident inspired the brilliant "A Child of the Golden West" from Dennis Etchison after all.

I was mildly curious, and the film opened with a historic scene giving an alternate version of the Donner Party's demise. George Donner went a little crazy when the wagon train became snowbound, we learn.

Flash forward to that aforementioned ski trip. Four, just four?, kids are headed to the mountain cabin belonging to the parents of the creepy Thomas (Erik Stocklin). He's a fifth wheel in a four-person party, but he's got the cabin.

A highway worker delivers the requisite warning of a person of interest in the area, and everyone forges ahead anyway.

They're soon  joined by friends of the terminally unfriendly Nicole (Adelaide Kane), upping the potential body even though Kayley (Desiree Hall) asks them to leave. She's the good girl.

People start to die. It all looks cookie cutter for a while, and then, suddenly it's not quite. Twists and a few additional ideas are woven late into the second act, and suddenly, with infighting and double crosses, everything gets more engaging than you'd expect.

Yes, it's one more slasher, one more band of dead teens, but there' just enough departure from template to keep things moving.

Of course there's cannibalism, but it's never overwhelming on the gore side, and, well, you'll find out more if you watch. I'm not pushing, but as those movies that bubble to the top of the Netflix "Now Available For Streaming" listings go, it's not a terrible hour and 26 minutes with credits.

There's some interesting music over those, a tune called High Ground by Orenda Fink.

Sid says, do whatever you want.


Charles Gramlich said...

Yeah, there'd have to be a little "departure from template." I may have to watch it.

Sidney said...

It follows the pattern for a while, but when the spin sets in it's kind of intriguing.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...