Director and writer Tara Anaise with a story from Tamara Blaich, marks her debut in the found-footage horror genre, which for unknown statistically reasons and lack of data, shows, many women directors avoid the sub-genre. Nevertheless, Tara’s film begins honest intentions centered on a discovery of gold, and consequentially the lust for greed, with the exploration of the Superstition Mountains of Arizona, a very real place, and searching for the Lost Dutchman mine, a location many individuals vanish from in some manner.
Now with this premise it sounds like an interesting tale, one has greed, and a real location, but this tends to fall into the found footage, with thanks to the movie poster and the summary of the movie, in March 2011 three filmmakers disappear in a documentary of the region but the found footage survives. The storyline follows Kate (Sage Howard (The Evil Inside )) and her friends Paul and Ross portrayed by Andrew Simpson and Shelby Stehlin (Truth or Dare ) respectively, though a rivalry exists, with an emphasis on jealously. Paul is Kate’s boyfriend and Ross is a friend, though seeks more than just the friend title, add in the lust for the gold, and vast brutality of the landscape with snakes, coyotes, strangers, stinging whipping winds of dust and small pebbles and the wrong clothing shows the inexperience of this team early on in the film. For the most part this film sounds itself as if non-fiction, involving the legend of Jacob Waltz’s rumored treasure in the region, much conflicting data and stories rotating on whether it’s real or just another wild fantasy told on the deathbed. Sadly, the movie never goes very far into the background, except noting the previous missing adventurers who are presumed dead, after an ill-fated journey into nature’s playground. Many people, urban dwellers and college students often believe they can outsmart the elements and feel surviving in nature for a five-day trek as no big deal, and perhaps that naïve mentality plays into movie, but never explored deeply to the paranoia of a victim to nature in a vindicated manner to trespassers’ basis of their motives on fact finding masking their greedy desires. Needless to say, for the audience, this falls out of play and the continuation to a haunting unease mixed with possible suggestions of the causes of vanishing individuals attribute to UFO abductions, specters, ancient civilizations’ curses and vortexes, the only things not mentioned, hillside cannibals and prehistoric creatures. Any or all these suggestions laid out a really messed up plot and yet more interesting than aimlessly walking about the terrain, and returning to wrecked campsites, though this group of friends experience a mountain man, triangle lights, and even unholy possessions.
The viewer does tend to find the lost, and perhaps intentional to one questioning everything presented to them, as the characters do the same, during the documentary, which suggests of time travel through the wormholes and leaving to alien encounters or just extreme exposure to the heat and the sun zapping all senses of the individual. If this is the case for this director, then a successful swing for the fences, though you must believe rather an unintentional consequence, and that the tensions on the screen surrounding their hopeless plight in life, and several wrong choices in the sacred lands of the Apache people, known to them to belong to the Thunder God. Although, this journey is more than just a found-footage film, it represents the dedication of an entrepreneurial filmmaker on the tightest low-budget horror film with a shooting schedule of six days, this again shows the breakdown of the concept of found footage movies, and the cast remains alive.
While Anaise, gives a full effort for her film, the problems mount quickly from, the sickening shaky camera work to mixed audio and poor sound quickly which again, might lead one to believe the found footage account, and the amateur skills, however one recalls Kate’s character a budding filmmaker knows her gear, and so does most owners of a Smartphone. However, overlooking the technical issues none of the possible suggestions of reasoning come to the surface in a conjoined method, no scientific reasoning or investigating reporting, leaving everything to personal interpretation. One key psychological aspect did play great in the movie, and actually seemed impossible for both to co-exist, the claustrophobic conditions of the mountain terrain watching down on these three insignificant specs in the vastness of nature’s threats while the paranoia of the growing tensions overwhelms the team and gives varying degrees of paralyzing fears mirroring effects of agoraphobia.
Overall, the film fills the proper time, some will experience a bit restlessness, with the buildup, it’s painstakingly slow, the limitations of people prey more negatively, and never develops until halfway through the movie. Many filmmakers seek out the careful balancing act of tension and scares, the scares lack herein, but the opportunity of a mockumentary had the visible but never bit on the angle unlike that of Mortal Remains . The found footage sub-genre, has glimpses of success but recapture the glory of The Blair Witch Project  might nearly be impossible to ever conquer the audiences again, except with homage scenes as it happens herein, look for it carefully tastefully and classical done. The audience needs to wonder what’s next for Anaise, maybe venture down the path of a psychology thriller she definitely presented some wonderful moments of it with Dark Mountain.
- They went looking for gold. They found something evil.
IMDb Rating: 4.6/10
Baron’s Rating: 4.5/10