(Be warned, Black Mountain Side spoilers are bound to be beyond.)
Black Mountain Side is a throw back horror movie to a time when psychological horror outweighed the amount of blood on the screen.
The first thing about Black Mountain Side that hits you is the extreme isolation. You don’t need a title card to know that we’re heading somewhere far away from civilization (I had to do a Google search to find where Northern Taiga Cordillera of Canada is located. It’s far away from nothing). The establishing shots of mountains, snow, and large expanses of nothingness sets the stage perfectly for future troubles. The beautifully filmed opening shots are also our first indication that we’re not watching the typical indie-horror film. No, BMS is something a little different.
Briefly, Black Mountain Side is about a team of archaeologists who discover evidence of a Mesoamerican settlement in a place where Mesoamerican Indians never had permanent settlements. Words like BP (Before Present) and Clovis Indians are floated around along with some very interesting history lessons. Unlike other movies, or even procedural television shows, none of it is dumbed downed or panders to the audience.
As engaging as these “lessons” are the movie takes off when the team finds something in the ground. This “something” is what the whole movie hinges on.
The team, consisting of some of the best written and well acted characters found in any horror movie, is exposed to a virus, a real nasty virus. Once the virus enters the body it starts turning the host into a squid like creature. It sounds silly, but we never see the final stages. The madness associated with virus causes some of the exposed team members to start acting irrationally. Irrationally, as in suicide and murder.
To make matters worse, they lose contact to the other stations in their network. Between the excellent acting and the mood created by the director a believable feeling of isolation and fear can actually be felt. It can’t get worse than having a virus inside you while being trapped in the middle of nowhere. Or can it?
As each member suffers the affects of the virus they start to hear a voice. The voice tells them to do things, violent things, to themselves and to other team members. It’s jarring the first time we hear the voice. We’ve been drawn into this world and have become invested in the characters so deeply that the voice comes as much of a shock to the audience as it is to the characters. It’s scary. But who does the voice belong to?
The voice belongs to the Deer God. What is the Deer God? I’d argue the Deer God is a manifestation of the virus. Dr. Andervs describes the virus as similar to syphilis. Without going into graphic detail about syphilis or paraphrasing what the doctor said, untreated syphilis can cause the victim to eventually go crazy.
Early in the movie, the Dogrib workers flee the camp because something has scared them away. What that something is we’re never to sure. However, one explanation is their believe in the natural world freaked them out. Or, as it was put in the movie, “They see a deer and flee.” It wouldn’t be a leap in logic to assume as each member was going crazy they remembered this conversation and start to hallucinate the Deer God.
Hallucinations can explain a lot of what is happening in Black Mountain Side. However, it can’t explain what the Dogribs saw. Was it the virus coming out of the structure? I know enough about viruses to know you can’t see them with the naked eye. So, was it in fact, the Deer God telling them to leave?
Then there’s the cat. Who or what killed the cat? The virus would have turned the others into squid like creatures if they hadn’t killed themselves. The cat didn’t look squid like and it couldn’t have killed itself. So, how did the cat die? Sometimes the smallest pieces in a movie add up to big things.
There are many questions in Black Mountain Side that are never answered. However, they don’t have to be answered. Good movies, horror or any other kind, create a discussion among the audience. Is it important to know why the other stations never responded to distress calls? As an audience we’d like to know, but it’s much more fun to discuss things like this among friends and fans.
Black Mountain Side is sure to please die hard horror fan, but it’s also accessible to the causal fan. If you watch, and we recommend you do, you’re in for a treat of scares, terrors, and more.
Black Mountain Side is available on Blu-Ray, DVD, and VOD. Watch it and let us know what you think on our Facebook and Twitter pages. Also, look out for director Nick Szostakiwskyj‘s next film Hammer of the Gods.