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Movie Review: Mine Games

Mine GamesToday was supposed to mark the DVD release of a new horror film called The Evil Within, which was originally titled Mine Games. Over the weekend, however, Phase 4 Films announced that they’ve not only pushed back the release but also reverted the film back to its original title, with the newly retitled (… with its old title) Mine Games now set for release this coming September.

Why do I mention this? Because I was just e-mailed an official screener link for Mine Games, giving me the chance to see the movie that we all almost had the chance to watch today. Should you be bummed that the date was moved back? That’s what we’re here to find out!

Like many a horror film before it, Mine Games centers on a group of attractive young people who take a van out to a remote location in the woods, for the purpose of drinking, having sex and letting loose at a friend’s cabin. Shortly after arriving, they discover a creepy abandoned mine not far from the cabin, soon finding themselves hunted by a mysterious force.

On paper, Mine Games reads like a paint-by-numbers ‘cabin in the woods’ horror flick, and that’s precisely the movie it seems destined to be, in the early going. Like nearly all horror movies of this sort, the characters are underdeveloped to the point of being two-dimensional and totally lifeless, and the acting so wooden on nearly all accounts that it’s hard to suspend disbelief enough to actually pretend those characters are real people, rather than textbook horror movie victims.

In other words, I just got done watching the movie mere minutes before writing this up, and I already don’t remember any of their names. That said, props must be given to the heavy-drinking dude with the worm tattoo, who at least appears to be having fun with the material.

As a whole, the set-up for Mine Games is about as weak as horror movie set-ups get, and so rushed that you get the sense that co-writer/director Richard Gray just wanted to get his characters settled into their perilous situation as quickly as possible, so he didn’t have to waste any time on actually developing them. As a result, it’s nearly impossible to care about any of them, nor is their adventure or subsequent plight in the least bit interesting or engaging.

What is remotely interesting about Mine Games, however, is that it doesn’t end up being the cliche slasher movie that the premise would lead you to believe it’s going to be, instead taking a turn for the supernatural at around the halfway mark. At the risk of giving too much away, the film turns out to be a whole lot more Timecrimes than it is Friday the 13th, with a time loop element serving to make the last 45 minutes a whole lot more interesting than the first 45.

It’s right around that 45-minute mark that two of the characters discover their own dead bodies down in the mine, and we come to realize that time is being messed around with. It’s a somewhat refreshing twist, if only because the previous half of the movie had been so painfully generic. Unfortunately, the way that Gray plays around with that element is mildly amusing at best, and totally confusing and nonsensical at worst. And it’s much more often the latter, than it is the former.

Mine Games may not be the cliche slasher flick that it reads like but it’s nevertheless one hell of a cliche movie, trading in originality for generic time-warping thrills and chills. It’s a shame, considering there are some interesting ideas on display throughout, which could’ve made for a far better movie, in far more capable hands. A movie of this sort needs to be pulled off incredibly well in order for it to be effective, and this one ultimately just isn’t.

Nevertheless, props to Gray for the ambition, and for at least trying to do something a little different with his attractive young people at a cabin in the woods, rather than merely injecting a masked killer into the proceedings and butchering them one by one. So yea. There’s that.

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If you don't get enough of me here on Halloween Love, you can also find me on Dread Central, iHorror and Shock Till You Drop. Contact me via john@halloweenlove.com.