Starring Shane Twerdum, Michael Dickson, Carl Toftfelt, Marc Anthony Williams and Timothy Lyle.
Written & Directed by Nick Szostakiwskyj
“Black Mountain Side follows a group of archaeologists after they uncover a strange structure in North Canada, dating over ten thousand years before the present. The team find themselves isolated when their communication systems fail and it is not long before they begin to feel the effects of the solitude”. Via IMDb.
John Carpenter’s THE THING is one of the greatest sci-fi horror movies ever made. Gut-wrenchingly tense, nerve-shatteringly scary and full of unforgettable sounds and sights, it’s possibly my favourite Carpenter film. It’s influenced many films in the years since, including a prequel/sequel/remake that I think everyone has largely forgotten. The reason they forgot it was because it referenced the original so much, people were left wondering “why don’t we just watch the original?”
Black Mountain Side writer and director Nick Szostakiwskyj possibly likes Carpenters Thing more than even me. All male cast? Check. Snowy isolated setting? Check. Paranoia and infection? Check. Beard? Check. But it doesn’t stop there. It’s shot with an old school, minimalistic flair that reminds you very much of Carpenter’s earlier work.
In The Thing, we were given even less backstory to the characters than those contained in Mountain Side, but they were each individual’s, with identifiable traits. In Mountain Side, each character sounds the same. I’d be hard pressed to tell you anything standout about any of them. Which is a shame as the cast beautifully underplay the whole thing that really grounds things in reality.
Also, while The Thing took a slow-burn approach, once the story was set in motion, it was relentless and unpredictable. But Mountain Side starts in slow-burn and never, ever decides to press the accelerator. It’s self-serious tone matched with the pace makes for a very sour affair.
And finally, the actual threat at hand here felt far too ambiguous, leading to an ending that, I have to say, was one of the most frustratingly anti-climactic I’ve seen in a long time. It goes nowhere. Slowly.
It’s not all negatives though. The meticulous direction is to be admired, and never gives in to the usual quick cuts and flash filmmaking. Shots take in every ounce of the beautiful location, and really emphasise the isolation. One sequence in the climax appears to have been done in one long steadicam take and is amazing in its choreography. The near complete lack of musical score adds a sense of unease for the viewer, allowing the atmospheric sounds of the wilderness to become suffocating. And due to the pace and execution, the sudden moments of sheer ugly brutality really bruise, helped by some very, very good practical gore FX.
Due to the unclear story and massively disappointing ending, I can’t help but feel Black Mountain Side was a bit of a missed opportunity. But it’s a mature, adult chiller, which in this day and age is pretty respectable. If you’re into minimalist, ambiguous horror, or if you love you some Thing, check it out.