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Donner Pass
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Reviews & Ratings for
Donner Pass More at IMDbPro »

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18 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

Run-of-the-mill slasher thriller

Author: hi_im_manic from Atlanta, GA
22 January 2012

I have no idea why this film is classified as a horror. It's a slow-paced borderline thriller with a bit of slasher material. It's ordinary and unoriginal, but still somewhat watchable at least.

The film makers had no intentions of making historically accurate statements regarding the real story of the Donner party. It's a shame, because true accounts of the incident can readily be found in any library or online. A more comprehensible and effective horror story could have been woven from actual facts. Hear Me, producers? A little homework could have made for a more believable movie.

What we have is a movie based loosely around supposed local legends. The plot is mostly able to be followed, yet bizarre and insensible. Thus, the film staggers about stupidly like an old drunk spouting tall tales.

I did like a few moments of the camera work and set and there's beautiful scenery at times. It's unmistakably low-budget, but manages a few nice shots. In large though, the camera work is an amateur production, just shy of shoddy.

There's sexuality and heavy drinking in this movie, plus partial frontal nudity in one scene, so this is not for young eyes. There is gore, but it's no where near as disgusting as the gore you'll find in similar films that have came out recently. It's more on par with the Nightmare on Elm Street movies.

I am unimpressed, but do NOT feel that the experience was a total waste of time given My original expectations for it.

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17 out of 24 people found the following review useful:

Historicaly Inaccurate But Still An Awesome Movie

Author: pink-martini from Canada
20 January 2012

Overall the movie was really good. I only watched it because I really like the Donner Party Story and because I don't read synopsis I assumed this movie was about the original story. I was mad when the first 5 minutes were very wrong about the actually events. When it turned out it was a horror movie based on the events I was willing to give it a chance.

It turned out to be a really good lower budget with good actors and an unexpected plot twist. For a movie in it's class the acting, casting and production value was excellent. Overall a good horror movie for any one who enjoys them and I would definitely recommended it.

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6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

A Big Step Up From Your Typical Slasher Movie

Author: Sean Jump from United States
4 June 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Though undeniably cut from the slasher mould, Donner Pass rises above most other films of its type thanks to a serious approach and a fine cast. Based upon the legend of the Donner Party, the film gives us a new explanation for what really happened to those stranded people and how the same fate still stalks others who wander into Donner Pass. Script and direction are extremely well executed, and the relative lack of camp combines with the cold, dark, and isolated environment in which the plot develops to create an atmosphere of genuine suspense. The actors do a fine job all round, especially Desiree Hall as our main character and ultimate Final Girl. Ms. Hall's character is likable without being too good to be true, and so emerges as a real flesh-and-blood character we want to see triumph, even when it appears all hope for her has vanished. The rest of the cast does an admirable job as well, and the script fosters a sense of disaster by creating a group of people who are all consumed by various competing agendas and who are often not very likable. This adds an interesting group dynamic and an extra layer of danger--not only are the characters threatened by the mysterious killer, but by themselves as well. Special effects are very minimal, confined to a few bloody kills, but since the story relies more upon mystery and suspense than gore to generate its scares, the relative lack of visceral visual FX is hardly anything to complain about. Donner Pass may be a low-budget slasher movie, but it also proves that even within those confines it is possible to make a quality production. Worth at least a rental by any horror fan looking for an interesting twist on a familiar genre.

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13 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

Donner Pass - To PASS or not to PASS?

Author: Flow from Romania
20 January 2012

It's not a bad movie, really, has some pretty good ideas, yet, somehow, something just doesn't work out too good.

So, you could call it your average "group of friends go to a cabin in the woods and get murdered" story but it would be kinda ignorant cause the movie is a little more than this. The plot brings some new elements or maybe just ones that aren't used as often as others, so, you might like what you see, even be surprised for a change! The death-scenes on the other hand, quite disappointing, i expected a little more, guess they decided not to stick so much on gore/murders/execution but on plot. Usually i would call this a breathe of fresh air although i would be lying cause in a horror like this, i want to see nice kill-shoots. Overall, the action is OK, one could predict it earlier in the movie or might just go with it to the end and discover then what the action is all about.

Characters are OK also, annoying but guess that is how they were suppose to be, dialogue, a little poor, could have used some humor and last but not least a little nudity as always.

So, don't know exactly if to recommend this one or not, as i said, it is NOT a bad movie, don't know if i can call it a GOOD one, guess ultimately it will come down to everyone's personal opinion. Some of you will be entertained and some of you won't. I just expected more of it, had a lot of potential but it limited itself to far less...

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Not a horrible horror...

Author: darebear2001 from Canada
4 February 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

*** May contain spoilers! ***

As others have mentioned, I watched "Donner Pass" without knowing that it was a horror movie instead of a documentary. I actually didn't realize until the guy came out of the woods. I too figured I would give it some latitude and see where it went.

I have been a fan of the slasher genre for over 25 years. I'm forgiving of most slights and can be tolerant to occasional lapses.

This movie is not terrible. I thought the acting was adequate for the genre (I've seen worse). I thought the storyline was a little thin given that there would be more people up in a ski resort area than "the next neighbour is miles away" that doesn't make sense logically. I appreciated the twists and turns in the movie including the date-rape-revenge motif.

I have a problem with "snow horror." Maybe it's because we get actual winter in Canada with snow. Snow doesn't make for a good horror setting unless you're willing to use it as an extra character - isolating, unpredictable, cold - and this is where Donner Pass did use it well. But unlike bare ground, dirt, or gravel...snow leaves footprints. You can see when someone has been peeking in the windows - there is evidence! And characters that are blind to that just indicates shoddy writing. Sigh... Use it well or lose it entirely. Just my opinion, mind you.

I agree with other reviewers who criticized the death at the hot tub. It felt forced and telegraphed and rather unrealistic that the guy didn't hear the splashing or the whimpering given that you could hear it from the underwater camera angle. Oh well...

Overall a "not bad" horror film but as one of the characters in the movie said, "being not bad doesn't make you good."

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

OK movie

Author: greg hinman from United States
18 January 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

When I first saw this movie in Redbox I thought well for a buck ill rent it. I love horror movies, and probably more tolerant of lousy ones than most. This, however, wasn't lousy. Some of the characters were, of course, annoying (moreso than usual) but i liked the heroine. The rest of the cast could have been anyone off the street and the punks that came to the cabin after the main four were over the top obnoxious. The story itself wasn't that special, basically usual killer movie and pretty much typical ending. That said, again I am very tolerant of what many consider lousy movies, the movie moved along fairly steady, with what I guess an interesting story line (it could have been much better idea was OK). A couple of scenes almost ruined it. The scene where the couple was in hot tub and the guy got out to urinate was a joke. He was maybe 30 feet away and the killer was able to sneak up on the girl in the tub and bite chunks out of her neck without him knowing (laughable) and I would have preferred not seeing the killer crawling through the snow towards her (no suspense there). Then the scene where the jackasses first arrive after the main group. They were just over the top mean and nasty. It could have been toned down a little. The beginning and the end I liked for the most part. So overall I did enjoy the movie and would give it a 5.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Decent low budget horror weakened by lazy character writing

Author: The_Dead_See from Wisconsin
28 August 2013

If you've spent enough time watching the indie horrors that appear so frequently on Netflix instant, you'll know by now that only about one in three of them is watchable. Not good, just watchable. Donner Pass is one of the watchable ones.

It's basically a tame slasher movie with a spin on the Wendigo myth thrown in (but don't expect something as good as "Ravenous"). It's elevated above the usual crowd by decent acting and direction, a restrained pace, and an interesting rape/revenge subplot. One thing I very much liked was that when the bad stuff did start going down, the characters made some pretty logical decisions (such as attempting to dig a car out of snow while the others stand guard post with weapons at all four corners). It's always a welcome relief when you don't have to shout "as if you would do that!" at the screen.

Unfortunately, like with so many films of this ilk, the character writing is where it fails. Yet again we're introduced to a group of bickering twentysomethings that I have a seriously hard time believing would ever come together as acquaintances let alone friends. Each character never gets past the standard slasher stereotype - the bitch, the jock, the bad boy, the nerd, and the blank canvas final girl. And worse, most of the characters are so horrible that you never get invested in their wellbeing, which makes every death scene at best empty and meaningless and at worst, a relief.

For any would-be indie horror film maker reading this, I implore you to take this simple formula to heart: "Make a character *we can like* and then put them in danger".

It really shouldn't be hard but almost once a month I see a film where crappy characters are the principle flaw in an otherwise solid horror movie. If only we lived in a world where the first thing they taught at screen writing school was "how to make the audience give a damn".

Rant over, back to the movie: Donner Pass is well made enough that, if you can get past the characters, it is worth watching. The subtle supernatural slant seems to rub a few viewers the wrong way but I actually enjoyed it more because of it (mundane slasher flicks bore me). I give it props for some intelligent plot decisions and for having a bit more of a grown-up feel than many tween-targeted slashers. It's not great, but it's worth watching. 5/10.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:


Author: gavin6942 from United States
26 August 2013

Donner Pass has a well-known and macabre history -- the place where George Donner and his party got stuck in the winter of 1846 and were forced to resort to cannibalism to keep from starving. But what if it was not just history?

This is your standard young people alone in a secluded area type of horror film. There is some attempt to connect it to the legendary Donner Party, but it is done in such a way as to seem gratuitous and really outside the overall tone and thrust of he film.

If someone were to make a film inspired by the story or actually set at the time, I think it could work well. "Ravenous" was a great film, for example. This one, though, is nothing special.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:


Author: Cedric_Catsuits from United Kingdom
12 August 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It took me some time to figure out what was going on here, even after we had been told in the script. Then I realised just what a load of rubbish it was. Up to a point the story was decent enough - your average serial-killer-on-the-loose-stalking-teens sort of saga. Then it all gets a bit silly and confusing.

Mixing fantasy and reality just doesn't cut it for me. I prefer my shock and horror to be either believable or so fantastic it becomes thrilling. Explaining away inconsistencies in the plot with a dash of fantasy (much like Bobby Ewing in the shower, if you're old enough to remember) seems an increasingly convenient get-out for script writers, as there are hundreds of potentially good films ruined this way.

It's decent enough if you're not as picky as me, but there's not a lot of mystery or suspense - apart from the mystery of the script.Not my cuppa tea but not a totally awful film either.

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17 out of 33 people found the following review useful:

There Is A Killer In The Woods, Yawn

Author: chicagopoetry from United States
18 January 2012

Whoopee. Yet another movie about unlikable young adults (in this case a few nerds and a few dumb gorillas) who go into the woods to be slaughtered by a serial killer. You know it's going to be bad when the prequel involves people wearing makeup that looks like it came from a junior high school play. The slasher genre has been to the movie industry THE most overused genre in history. Not even westerns or vampire movies have consistently pumped out so many examples of crapola with only slightly different variations in theme (in this case watch the monologue during the musical Don't Go In The Woods for the plot). The only slasher movies that actually succeed are those with original stories to tell, and/or shocking and gory special effects, real SCARES (remember scares?), and good acting.

This new addition, Donner Pass, has none of it. The premise is okay except the movie takes it nowhere but to the old tired formula of young adults finding their friends dead and getting scared and panicky. In this case the acting is horrible; but not as horrible as the writing is, however; with each turn I wished that I had written it so that there would be more emotion and more realistic human interaction between the characters.

This is one of those movies where you sit through it (if you can) saying, "Oh, this is so stupid" and by the time the twist comes involving someone you already suspecting explaining why he's the actual serial killer, during the final twenty minutes ala Scream, you are already asleep.

I don't understand why movies like this keep getting made. Who pays for this crap? There must be a market, otherwise, why make them? There is a market for crack cocaine too, but Donner Pass is like a bag filled with Ivory Soap. Why do slasher films these days feature characters that we don't even like? It makes no sense. I mean, I don't care if any of these characters get killed; in fact, I wish they would get killed--they are so annoying--but when they do get killed it's not even satisfying because the lack of imagination from the special effects person can't even deliver a good death scene. So what's the point? What we get is yet another, and I repeat--another--ninety minutes of some young adults in a cabin in the woods waiting to get killed. Literally. Come on. Seriously.

Gee, I know how to save this movie, throw in a completely unexplained ripoff of REC for a few minutes at the end. NOT. Here we actually had a real opportunity with the unwanted guests and all, and it could have been a truly violent mixture of Last House On The Left and Halloween; but, instead, nothing happens out of the usual pathetic tired old dusty genre.

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