Dark Mountain (2013)

Rating: D

Dir: Tara Anaïse
Star: Sage Howard, Andrew Simpson, Shelby Stehlin

I’m no fan of found footage, and if there wasn’t an Arizona connection here, I wouldn’t have given this the time of day. I turned it on with low expectations. However, even those melted as the opening scene had a woman at night, lost in the wilderness, burbling tearfully about how sorry she was. Yes, folks: welcome to The Arizona Witch Project. I considered switching it off and pretending not to have learned of its existence. But I persisted, and here we are. I hope you appreciate my sacrifice. For it seems that the Curse of the Lost Dutchman’s Mine, is that anyone attempting to make a movie about it, is doomed to wander forever in the hell of bad cinema.

That conclusion is, admittedly, based on a sample size of two. However, this isn’t even entertainingly bad, like Ghost Warrior. It is just derivative, formulaic and deeply uninteresting. The story is about three Californians who come to Arizona – yeah, that’s my sympathy making an excuse and leaving already. Their aim is to find the storied mine, which lore says is located in the mountains east of Phoenix. It kicks of with obligatory interviews at the Superstition Mountain Museum, with locals about the area’s reputation. These include local icon George E. Johnston, then in his nineties, but still sharp as a tack. I’d probably have preferred the entire film to have been an 80-minute chat with him. It’d have been more informative and entertaining.

Instead, they head off into the mountains, and things proceed exactly as you would expect. Spooky sounds, mysterious experiences, they get lost and wander around in circles, the camera shakes violently, one of the trio proclaims that they are all going to die. Sobbing apologies ensue, while remarkably, everyone keeps right on filming. Outside of this being apparently triggered by one of the party taking a piece of gold-bearing ore from a mine, there’s basically nothing here you haven’t seen a dozen times before. The execution provides little to separate it from other low-tier found footage entries, except that the phone of Kate Wilson (Howard) has a SnapChat filter on it. Sadly, not an amusing one to give everyone dog features, this just makes things look grainy and sepia (top).

This is, however, more “character” than is shown, either by her, or the other two members of the party, sensitive guy Ross Abrams (Stehlin) and macho man Paul Gardner (Simpson). Or was it the other way around? Oh, who cares. Any hopes this might defy expectations and be original, died completely just before the 25-minute mark, when Paul (or was it Ross?) says to Kate, “What, do you think this is going to turn into The Blair Witch Project or something?” No, because to turn into it, this would have to have been something different originally. It’s not. Managing to make a film which feels like a cheap knockoff of one which was already ultra-cheap, takes some doing. Congratulations, Ms. Anaïse.