Posts Tagged ‘briana evigan’

minegames

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.

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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.

MineGames_JoeCrossMIFF.preview

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.

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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.

 

"Sorority Row" Movie Poster

"Sorority Row" Movie Poster

Theta Pi must die!

Pretty good tagline, huh? “Sorority Row,” a remake/update of 1983’s superb “The House On Sorority Row,” does indeed boast a couple of good “zingers” in its “viral” and standard marketing campaigns, the other being “Sisterhood Is Forever.”  They’re direct, to the point, and easy to remember. Enough to pique your interest.  But is that interest ultimately rewarded?

The cast is a testament to the continuing power of nepotism in Hollywood, featuring as it does Rumer Willis (Bruce and Demi’s kid) and Briana Evigan (daughter of Greg, still best remembered as title character B.J. McKay in TV’s “B.J. And The Bear”) among its bevy of young almost-starlets. They each out in good turns as basket-case Ellie and quasi-hero Cassidy, respectively, and are  the only two sisters among a group of five members of the exclusive Theta Pi sorority who share a deadly secret between them to show any sort of remorse for the part they played in a deadly prank gone wrong that left one of their other members at the bottom of a disused mine shaft.

The initial premise of accidentally killing their friend while she’s pretending to be dead is clever enough and fleshed out in much more detail than it was in the original, but in all fairness this remake suffers from some of the same flaws that so many previous entries in the horror classic do-over sweepstakes do : it’s more stylized than it is stylish, it’s trying overly-hard to be “contemporary” and “relevant” while remaining ostensibly true to its “source material,” and has an unfortunate tendency to over-explain things just in case its audience leans too heavily toward the moronic —for instance, we can see with our own two eyes that the killer is using a tricked-out tire iron, there’s really no need for dialogue exposition to confirm that fact, and while we’re at it, there’s no need to keep reminding us of the fact that Megan, the unfortunate victim in question, can’t possible be alive—we know that, too, and when the sisters who dumped her and some of their friends start getting killed off one-by-one on the night of their college graduation, the movie doesn’t even try particularly hard to sell us on the idea that it could be her back from the grave to exact vengeance, so why keep mentioning it as a possibility?

The real identity of the killer is the main source of intrigue here, and while some of the “red herrings” along the way are pretty blatantly absurd (Carrie Fisher as the stereotypical drunk house mother, for instance, never seems plausible as the face beneath the murderer’s graduation gown hood, but they sure do try to sell us on the idea for a little while), it’s nevertheless an interesting enough little mystery, and when the raging psychopath is finally revealed, to give credit where it’s due, it actually is fairly surprising.

The rest of the principal cast—Leah Pipes as super-bitch Jessica,  Jamie Chung as perpetually-cheated-on Claire, and Margo Harshman as drunken uber-slut Chugs—all do well enough with their roles, and director Stewart Hendler keeps things moving at a pretty brisk and at times even suspenseful clip. No one here has anything to be ashamed of, that’s for sure.

But then, there’s nothing that particularly sets this film apart from the passel of teen- and twenty-something-horror out there. It’s involving enough for about 100 minutes, but in no way especially memorable, yet alone groundbreaking. You won’t reflect on it much later, nor be dying to rent it on DVD. It all fades from memory pretty quickly.

It’s not bad, that’s for certain, but it never rises above the level of “acceptably average,” so while your host isn’t willing to go so far as to say you should give this movie a pass, the fact is that you won’t be missing a whole lot if you don’t see it, especially since there’s sure to be something else more or less exactly like it that comes along within the next few weeks.