Dragons, dwarves, underground caves – for any fantasy-movie addict, such a classically intriguing combination almost always promises a heady thrill ride. Chris Rainey’s Dragon Mountain is no different. The feature film follows the plight of three dwarf miners who embark on a suspenseful race for their lives after the mountain they are working in collapses. The intensity builds as the group battles circumstantial threats, like dwindling supplies and diminishing oxygen, and climaxes as they are hunted down by a creature buried with them.
Dragon Mountain interlaces an extraordinarily fascinating narrative with an irresistible cast. Set to a thrilling soundtrack that pitches you right into the mountain’s catacombs alongside the dwarves you learn to root for, director/writer Rainey masterfully produces a Lord of the Rings meets 127 Hours lovechild. Embellished with intricately complex characters, Dragon Mountain oh so ironically flourishes in delivering an enthusiastic storyline of human potential, an angle which countless films mistakenly neglect. Thanks to an epic plot with superb scope, this steampunk fantasy absorbs you from the get-go; making you gasp, shout, chuckle, and cringe in all the right places.
“…three dwarf miners who embark on a suspenseful race for their lives after the mountain they are working in collapses.”
There’s an element of surprise laced into the feature that is something only a member of the audience can cherish. Slow to win the viewer over, there exists an impossibly dominant sense of dubiousness that permeates the first couple of scenes. As we watch the protagonists get ahold of their bearings and dire situation, a fleeting thought appears – is this movie set in dingy caves worth watching through to the end? The answer to that arrives soon after, as a fully-realized story rises from the depths of the mountain surrounding them. It is infinitely worth it, something that is proven the further the team of dwarves descends into their surroundings and the more your anticipation for what’s next grows.
Exceptional character development for each dwarf in the trio is one of the most noteworthy components of this mystical tale. Brenn (Robert Morgan) adds a conflictingly entertaining edge to the group dynamic, being the head-strong, angry, illogically brave one who acts first and thinks later. He also lacks any form of remorse; a sociopathic tendency that walks hand in hand with his demonstrated survivalist nature. Odryd (Brent Bateman) is compassionate but indecisive, focused on getting home to his family, while Calcas (John Hutton) makes an impression as the quiet, wise voice of reason who grapples with a desolate secret. All contribute their own distinct quirky traits, making for an unlikely alliance in their joint crusade for life.
Performance wise, Morgan, Hutton, and Bateman are flawlessly cast. They win you over and have you rooting for their triumph as the narrative’s complexities thicken, a focal question indefinitely hovering: will they make it out alive? Not only that, but the depth of what they stand for diversifies as we learn more about the socio-political struggles facing humans and dwarves on the surface. The pure power of the cast, characters, and plot balances out the area where Dragon Mountain could use some work – production value.
“…will get your pulse racing. Filled with incident and purpose behind every turn…”
Darkness reigns as a series of cave walls and drops from the shifting cinematic landscape. The technical design is challenged from the start as a dim, bleak tint is obligatory in order to inspire the grim story. Just the same, there profoundly lacks much visual resource, which could have been utilized to depict the protagonists’ horror of being confined in a more stirring manner. The mysterious creature hunting the dwarves stimulates a measure of fear until you get your first glimpse of it. It’s laughably scary, at best. The same mentality applies to the CGI dragon that kicks the show off – bluntly speaking, the film could have done without.
On the flip side, a wavering quality to the camera handiwork emanates a pseudo-Cloverfield effect in a few scattered segments, genuinely adding to the paranoia. While a more vivid approach to the cinematography could have taken the tension and anxiety to a more intimate degree, the movie’s stars communicate their gut-wrenching desire to prevail well enough on their own.
Beguiling and majestic, Dragon Mountain will get your pulse racing. Filled with incident and purpose behind every turn, Rainey has executed on his cryptic vision of another world. He’ll have you gripped in those very underground caves until the penultimate flame flickers out.
Dragon Mountain (2018) Directed by Chris Rainey. Written by Zachary Amundson and Chris Rainey. Starring Brent Bateman, John Hutton, and Robert Morgan. Music by Luke Atencio.
9 out of 10 stars