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Movie Review: Welcome To Pipe Mountain

By Mike Everleth ⋅ May 27, 2008

Photographer takes a picture of a man hanging from a tree

Written and directed by Kenta McGrath, Welcome to Pipe Mountain is a beautiful film with an ugly heart — which ends up making the total experience that much more beautiful.

The actual “beautiful” part of the film is the location and how it’s shot by cinematographer Hugh Thomson. Dwellingup, Western Australia, which stands in for the fictional “Pipe Mountain,” looks like a fantastic place to go hiking, particularly because of the rolling landscape and the way Thomson catches the sun very prettily shining through the leaves of the the incredibly tall trees.

But horrible things happen at this very nice location. The premise of the film is that for unknown reasons, Pipe Mountain is a popular place for people to commit suicide. Most of these deaths occur during a particular time of year and the so-called “suicide season” can produce up to several dozen corpses.

This is a semi-short film, clocking in just under thirty minutes or so, and given the long set-up on the area’s notorious reputation, I was kind of expecting the rest of the movie to explain the reason behind the suicides. It doesn’t.

Instead, the film plays out like a mystery without a resolution. A young man with a briefcase enters the forest, tries to hang himself and fails when the rope around his neck breaks. He’s also knocked unconscious when he hits the ground. When he awakens, there’s a pretty girl sitting by his side.

There’s not much dialogue in the film and the relationship by these two characters, which grows from a tempestuous one to bemused comradeship, develops mostly through non-verbal interactions. They hike through the woods, wandering to someplace that we have to presume is just anywhere else from where they came from. We never find out what circumstances brought them to these woods or what their plans are now that their final decisions were taken out of their hands.

Conflict does arise later on when the man and woman come upon some other people. There’s some gunfire, a little bit of blood and gore; and the film becomes quite crafty with a few plot twists with relatively few characters, some who are half-dead and immobile, and, as I said, very limited dialogue.

It’s an engaging little film that defies most expectations. Events could have evolved into several predictable storyilnes, either building up to some sort of supernatural revelation or a dull “torture porn” scenario. I was really expecting either one of those two things to rear its ugly head and McGrath doesn’t a superb job of not falling into any genre traps. Welcome to Pipe Mountain is a horror film, in a way, but it’s more of a general rumination on the sadness of life than a rote genre exercise.

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