An Unknown Compelling Force (2021)

There’s a good movie to be made about the Dyatlov Pass Incident. It is one of the most compelling and eerie mysteries of all time; despite all the hypothesizing and debunking we might never truly know what happened on that mountain. There’s been a ton of claims about an alleged avalanche while interested parties have stuck to their theories about chemical warfare, military testing, or even yetis. In either case, this is a truly scary mystery that deserves a much better movie than “An Unknown Compelling Force.”

In 1959 a group of student hikers were attempting a difficult winter expedition in the remote Ural Mountains of Russia when an unknown event led to their mysterious deaths. When the team failed to report back, search parties led by the Soviet Government and fellow students uncovered the grizzly remains of the hikers. Found a mile from their shredded tent, they seemingly fled into the freezing temperatures without their winter clothes or boots. Adding to the mystery, known as “The Dyatlov Pass Incident,” many of the bodies had suffered brutal and inexplicable injuries, and some even showed traces of radiation. The case was closed by investigators at the time, stating that the hikers died from “An Unknown Compelling Force.”

While “An Unknown Compelling Force” does delve deep in to the case, it doesn’t really help the audience comprehend how truly spooky this incident is. “An Unknown Compelling Force” isn’t really a movie that ventures to get to the bottom of the Dyatlov Pass Incident. It’s sadly a movie that’s mostly just speculation and spends most of its one hundred minutes run time asking “Why?” and “How?” rather than seeking the truth. It doesn’t even really seek to pose its own stance on what went down. There’s so much exploration of alleged conspiratorial occurrences only for director Le Guillou to turn around debunk his own claims. This makes the movie feel like we’re just running around in circles.

There’s a lot of information to be mined as Le Guillou interviews a lot of the people connected with the hikers including journalists, relatives, and even selected politicians that recall much of the dreaded search for the missing hikers. He even dissects a lot of the photos taken during the expedition including one picture that supposedly snapped a UFO. As with a lot of documentaries about mysterious, unsolved incidents, the enjoyment is based around how much you think is possible, and what is just fantasy for the sake of sensationalism. Sadly, there is a skosh of sensationalism injected within the investigation of the Dyatlov Pass Incident, and it tends to fog up an otherwise interesting investigation.

It just all could have been so much more straight forward and absolute rather than take us down this path and leave us asking even more questions than ever before. Maybe it was one big government conspiracy. Or maybe it was just a horrific avalanche? I hope we get a movie that gives us so much more concrete information, very soon, as the Dyatlov Pass Incident is still a very creepy and bizarre mystery begging to be solved.

Available Digitally on June 15th.