Based on a true story, “Dead Mountain” is a scripted series revolving around the mystery of what happened to a group of nine Russian students on a ski hike in the Ural Mountains in January, 1959. Despite being experienced hikers, they never reached their destination. When their bodies were discovered a month later, authorities couldn’t figure out how they died. They were found frozen stiff in their underwear spread around the camp, some partially mangled, and their tent had been cut open from the inside.
The story, in Russian with English subtitles, is told in three timelines — the incident in January, the confidential investigation by a KGB major later that year, and flashbacks to World War II scenes in 1945.
The problem with the series is it takes eight hour-long episodes to get us to a non-climax, because to this day, 62 years later, the mystery hasn’t been solved — and it takes far too long to get there. Along the way, we have to learn about the social interactions of the hikers, hear them sing a few songs around the campfire, and try to uncover the truth about an older guy they’ve been forced to take along.
Much of “Dead Mountain” drags on, and the flashbacks don’t help, nor does the fact that none of the hikers is particularly interesting. There’s no one who can serve as our proxy, no delineation of who’s a protagonist and who’s an antagonist. All we know is they’re headed for their doom, but is their killer a natural force or a supernatural one? Was the government conducting some secret experiments in the region? After a while, frankly, I lost interest.
I give “Dead Mountain” a 3 on a scale of 10. Now available on the Topic streaming service.