Black Mountain Side
black mountain side | nick szostakiwskyj | shane twerdun | michael dickson | carl toftfelt | lovecraftian | cosmic horror | isolated | isolation | monster | creature | winter | drama | mystery | canada | sci-fi | thriller | marc anthony williams | andrew moxham
Film: Black Mountain Side
Director: Nick Szostakiwksyj
Writer: Nick Szostakiwskyj
Starring: Shane Twerdun, Michael Dickson and Carl Toftfelt
This is a movie that I heard about through podcasts. Seeing when this came out, it was in that era where I wasn’t necessarily into watching new horror yet. I did hear good things so it went on a list of ones to check out. I’m now doing so as part of my winter episodes on Journey with a Cinephile: A Horror Movie Podcast for December.
Synopsis: at a cold, desolate, northmost outpost in Canada, an archaeological discovery is made. A specialist arrives November 1st. Strange things happen. All contact with the outside world is down.
That does well in recapping the movie. To just flesh a bit more out though, we have Jensen (Shane Twerdun) who is running the radio. He works with Francis Månro (Carl Toftfelt), Robert Michael Giles (Marc Anthony Williams), Dr. Richard Andervs (Andrew Moxham), Drew McNaughton (Timothy Lyle) and Steven Wells (Steve Bradley). The specialist who arrives is Professor Piers Olsen (Michael Dickson).
This does well in establishing that most everyone gets along. If anything, Jensen seems to rub Robert the wrong way. They get along well enough though. There is a structure that is found along with some pottery. The problem though is that the markings on it match more with Mesoamerican. With the layer of soil that it is found, they weren’t this far north during the ice age. It also seems to match Mayan or Aztec markings. Piers tries to make sense of this with Francis.
Things take a turn though when members of the team get sick. We get a scene where a member’s arm looks to have a pulsating tumor. It is amputated to save them. Drew and Steven are the first two to start acting weird. The tensions rise when Jensen makes a call to get supplies that should arrive a few days later. The radio goes down and no run comes through. The men start to distrust each other as well. They have two indigenous workers that also disappear. At first, they think they headed back toward the reservation. The tracks are going in the opposite direction though. To complicate things even more, we see a figure that is stalking the camp at night. It is telling the men to do things. No one is sleeping and that could explain this. It becomes a fight for survival and avoiding going insane in these remote parts.
That is where I’m going to leave my recap and introduction to the characters. Where I’ll start is the glaring similarities to The Thing. We have an all-male cast that is isolated in a frozen area. This doesn’t feature people becoming an alien, but there is that mistrust of each other. Part of that is lack of sleep. We have people descending into madness and doing things that are out of the norm. What we are getting here is something different from that classic. I did want to set that up here. You could even correlate this to The Last Winter. It bares more striking resemble for the reveals here as well.
Now with that out of the way, I love the setting of this movie even if it is something that’s been already done. There is something about isolating our characters this far away from civilization. You add in that it is cold and chances of just walking away aren’t good. Another thing that I should mention as being borrowed is that whatever is happening could be an illness. There is the idea of trying to survive and possibly infecting others. Having our characters be stuck here adds that moral dilemma of it dying with the characters or surviving to infect humanity. This movie also feels cold.
Where I want to shift is that I love learning about history. My love there started with the Egyptians and shifted to Chinese history as well as South and Latin American. What I like here is that our crew found what looks to be a small temple or a structure of sorts that doesn’t fit. The layer of soil makes it be near the end of the Ice Age. Piers points out that people did not set up civilizations yet. What makes it even weirder is that the markings point to things found with the great civilizations farther south. There is this entity that appears to our characters. What I will say is that the markings indicate that animals were sacred. There is a deer like thing that they are seeing which could be a god of sorts. That is so eerie that it intrigued.
Then want to take this to the supernatural vs. grounded explanation. This is Lovecraftian and cosmic horror. The entity tells one of our characters that they were there when the stars were created. A name is never given. This thing is cosmically indifferent. This could be what is controlling things and making these characters not only lose their mind but become sick. Shifting then to the logical, this reminded me of Larry Fessenden’s The Last Winter. There could be a bacterium that was frozen in the ice that is melted due to what they’re doing. It could be making them sick. Due to their isolation, it could be them breaking down mentally with cabin fever. I like that the movie gives us both as the explanation. I personally think though that it is supernatural with the potential bacteria making it worse.
That should be enough for the story that I wanted to flesh out so I’ll take this to the acting. We have a cast of believable characters. I like that Twerdun as almost our Kurt Russel type. He is a good guy, but he rubs members of this team the wrong way. He is a bit of the ‘capitalist’ in that he doesn’t want to shut down and lose their progress. Dickson is good as the outsider who is the expert. He’s also our ‘hero’ of sorts. I thought that Toftfelt, Williams, Moxham, Lyle and Bradley were all good. Nathaniel Gordon has a good voice as the ‘deer god’. There is a limited cast outside of that who fit for what was needed.
The last things to go into would be with the filmmaking. I’ve already gave praise to the setting. I will also include the cinematography. I think this is shot well. We get great establishing shots. This helps to make it feel isolated and cold like it does. There aren’t a lot in the way of effects, but what we get look to be practical. What is effective here is the use of shadows to prevent things from being overanalyzed. Other than that, I thought blood and bit of gore we get looked good. The soundtrack is the last thing here. It didn’t necessarily stand out. It helped to build the atmosphere. I also liked the voice used for the entity as it adds a layer of creepiness.
In conclusion, I think this is a solid film. I like what they do with the setting to make it feel isolated. This Lovecraftian/cosmic horror vibe that goes with that is good. I like that there could be a logical explanation to everything as well. The acting is good. They bring their characters to life. I thought this was also a well-made movie which adds to it as well. Special credit there to the cinematography and the effects. I would recommend giving this one a viewing for sure, especially if the things I said work for you.
My Rating: 8 out of 10