Been there, done that — and goddamnit, we’re doing it again!
Last year, in order to spice things up a bit during the month of October, I whittled my focus for Halloween down from reviewing horror movies in general to reviewing horror movies (then-) currently available on Netflix — and this year, since I’m fresh out of ideas thanks to a grueling 55-hours-per-week work schedule, I’m just gonna do the same exact thing.
And why not, right? I mean, it’s Netflix — there’s gotta be plenty choose from, surely?
Except, ya know, when there isn’t. Which seems to be the case these days. Honestly, have you browsed their horror film “library” recently? It absolutely sucks. I mean, they probably had more to choose from five years ago when their streaming service was just getting off the ground. They really should be embarrassed. Maybe next year we’ll try a “Halloween On Hulu” instead.
Anyway, that being said, the only other ground rules to keep in mind for this month are that I’ll be watching and reviewing movies I haven’t seen previously and that, even though a good many (if not all) of the films we’ll be training our metaphorical lens on here are no doubt available on Blu-ray or DVD, technical specs for their physical-storage iterations won’t be under discussion because that’s not how I’m watching ’em. Fair enough? Okay, then let’s get started.
Underground mines have been a pretty popular setting for horror flicks for years now, it seems, with everything from creature features like The Boogens , The Strangeness, and The Descent (okay, you’re right, that’s a fucking cave, but the basic principle still applies — sort of) to slashers like My Blood Valentine making effective use of the axiom that when you go beneath the earth, shit tends to get scary. So why not give Aussie director Richard Gray a paltry-by-film-industry-standards $1.5 million, send him up to the Seattle area with a cast of purported up-and-comers, and see if he can’t make something of his mine-set script (hammered out with help from fellow screenwriters Robert Cross, Michele Davis-Gray, and Ross McQueen)?
Here’s the lowdown : a gang of seven twenty-something friends (Julianna Guill as Claire, Rebecca Da Costa as Rose, Ethan Peck as Guy, Rafi Gavron as Lex, Joseph Cross as Michael, Alex Meraz as T.J., and B.J. McKay’s daughter, Briana Evigan, as Lyla) are all heading for — you guessed it — a weekend getaway at a cabin in the woods. They run into some trouble along the way when they swerve off the road to avoid an apparition that may or may not have been there, but it’s all good — they eventually reach their destination, and hey! There’s even an abandoned mine nearby that, of course, they figure it would be a good idea to explore despite the fact that no one in their right mind would actually go anywhere near the thing. And that, of course, is where their troubles really begin in earnest.
In this case, “troubles” means auditory and visual hallucinations — that might not be auditory and visual hallucinations after all because they might actually be happening. It’s kinda hard to tell. But they sure do play with your head either way. And truth be told, for the most part they’re fairly effectively realized by Gray and company, and Mine Games — which also boasts the alternate title of The Evil Within — packs a reasonably decent wallop for what it is. I’m not sure why it languished in celluloid purgatory for a couple of years (filmed in 2012, it sat around unreleased until going straight to video in 2014) when plenty of worse crap sees the light of day immediately, but whatever. It’s here now and it’s a modestly enjoyable bumpy ride.
It helps that the cast of characters are mostly fairly likable and that no one’s named Justin or Colby or Madison or Britney or any of that shit the “Generation X”-ers saddled their kids with, sure, but credit where credit is due : this is an entirely competent, if wholly unremarkable, DTV fright flick.
True, it fumbles a bit when it comes to providing actual explanations for what’s going on, but hey — as horror fans we’re used to that, aren’t we? If you’re more in the mood for something that sets it sights on doing the best it can with what it has rather than playing at being yet another failed attempt at “re-defining the genre” or whatever, you could do a whole heck of a lot worse than Gray’s plucky little contender here.