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The Independent Critic

Desiree Hall, Erik Stocklin, Colley Bailey
Elise Robertson
R. Scott Adams
Rated R
90 Mins.
Freestyle Digital Media

 "Donner Pass" Review 
Have you ever watched a horror film where you really wanted the potential victims to die?

I mean, REALLY wanted them to die?

Donner Pass is such a film.

Dwelling comfortably within the legend of the George Donner party, a party that found themselves stuck in the harsh winter of 1846 and forced to resort to cannibalism to survive, Donner Pass moves everything forward to the here and now and sets us up with an obnoxious group of stereotypical teens/young adults who are nothing but cardboard caricatures sent here to die at the hands of a still hungry George Donner (Eric Pierpoint).

Filmed on a budget under $1 million, Donner Pass has the look and the feel of a low-budget indie horror where creativity was intentionally set aside in favor of killing and more killing. The slasher crowd may have a reason to watch this film, but virtually everyone else is going to sit watching the screen going "How on earth did this sucker find a distributor?"

As a film critic who focuses almost exclusively on the indie scene, it's disconcerting to have personal knowledge of a wealth of intriguing, thought-provoking and awesomely made independent  horror and to see films like this one end up with a solid distribution deal.

There's nothing that really matters here, though it is impossible to completely trash the film because director Elise Robertson does a decent job with production quality given the film's lower budget. Bobby Scott's camera work is rock solid throughout the film, and Alessandro Marvelli's production design contributes to the film's occasional bits of anxiety-inducing killings.

This is a large ensemble cast picture, with only a few players having ample opportunity to really stand out from the pack. Those who stand out include Erik Stocklin as Thomas, the new kid whose family home serves as the gathering place where all our events are going to occur. Desiree Hall and Colley Bailey also have nice moments to shine, mostly courtesy of better dialogue from R. Scott Adams.

The film kicks off with a rather butt-kicking retrospective scene of the actual Donner party, but the rest of the film never quite lives up to the macabre glory of this opening sequence.

Donner Pass has been picked up by Freestyle Digital Media and is currently available for viewing on VOD. For the complete listing of where you can watch Donner Pass for yourself, visit the Donner Pass website.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic