31 Days of Halloween – Day 10: Mine Games (2014) – by Wolfman Josh

Mine GamesEditor’s note: Wolfman Josh is a host on Horror Movie Podcast and Movie Stream Cast. He is also a television producer and an award-winning documentary filmmaker. You can follow Josh on Twitter: @IcarusArts This review contains some carefully approached spoilers.

At the very least, Mine Games is a movie that lives up to its punny title—because Mine Games is a total mind … you know what.

We start out with the most contrived of standard set-ups. A group of friends—replete with plenty of doucehy guys and plenty of the hot chicks that they want to hook-up with—drive to a secluded cabin in the woods for a wild weekend. On the way there Michael, the driver played by Joseph Cross (former child actor all grown up), gets lost and then, in his frustration, almost runs over a person standing in the middle of the street, waving for assistance. Michael swerves off the road, crashes his van, the figure mysteriously disappears—strange—and the group decides they’d better carry on to the cabin by foot and return for the van in the morning.

A bright green haze, similar to Aurora Borealis, wafts through the night sky above them, but we’re told that we’re not far enough north for it to actually be the Northern Lights—strange.

The group arrives at a deluxe cabin, which is far nicer than what we’re used to seeing in these types of movies, and the characters agree that this can’t possibly be the place. Indeed, their friends who hooked-up the cabin deal are nowhere to be seen, but there is a note for the group to wait there. Strange? Regardless, they celebrate their arrival and then settle in for the night.

The next morning, Michael and his girlfriend head back to the van to find it irreparable and the front bumper mysteriously covered in blood—strange (okay, enough of that already).

Another in the group is out for a morning jog when he happens across the opening to an old mine.MineGamesFoldSoon, the whole party is at the mine ready to explore the surprisingly vast underground tunnels, but not before they notice a warning to “break the cycle” that they summarily ignore. “Hmmm, ‘break the cycle.’ What could that mean? Oh, well.”

And now they’re off into the tunnel doing all of the stupid things you’d expect these idiot kids to do … locking each other behind giant steel doors, sneaking around dark corners to scare the crap out of each other, almost falling through rickety walkways into abandoned mine shafts, and giving the supposedly psychic girl in the group (what? why?) some psychedelic mushrooms, which may or may not be the reason that she starts seeing her friends as walking corpses and thinks that they are all being stalked in the darkness.

Oh yeah, minor spoiler here, two of the characters, Alex Meraz (from Twilight’s Wolf Pack) and Rafi Gavron (from TV shows like Parenthood and 24), find themselves dead. As in, they actually come across their own dead bodies covered with a tarp, deep down in this creepy mine.

From there on out the movie is existing in some sort of time loop where both we and the characters are trying to figure out what is real and what is not, what is past and what is present, and how they can “break the cycle” so they don’t end up dead is this damn, dirty mine.

Despite giving you very little to work with, the movie keeps your interest by always staying one step ahead. The most exciting element of the film is getting to see the same scenes from different points of view. The problem is that the film is ultimately as convoluted as it is mysterious and many of the strange clues given to the audience throughout really add up to nothing or don’t track at all.

Is it the mine that is the root of evil in this movie? On the surface, and judging by the film’s current title, it seems to be. The film’s original title, The Evil Within, hints at completely different causality having to do with one character’s failure to take their schizophrenia meds. This is the far less interesting (and probably more offensive) conclusion. I think the movie is best when interpreted as at least combing those two explanations because otherwise even less of these strange clues make any sense.

What is with the green haze? Why is the loop extending all the way back to the nearby gas station and local newspaper? Exactly where does this twilight zone end? What’s the point of any of this if it’s all in one character’s head? This is just one of the reasons that the similarly-themed Triangle from 2009 is a superior film: the insanity in Mine Games has no internally-consistant boundaries.

The film is mostly well shot. The locations are incredibly gorgeous. There are some solid scares and cool twists throughout. The cast is a bit hit or miss. The standout hits include Julliana Guill (who you’d recognize from the Friday the 13th remake) and Briana Evigan (from Burning Bright, the From Dusk ’til Dawn television series and Sorority Row). On the miss side of things, the afore-mentioned psychic chick, played by Rebecca Da Costa, is truly unbearable.

In the end, Mind Games is an enjoyable watch if you don’t think about it too hard. I’m interested to see director Richard Gray’s follow-up film The Lookalike because I think this guy has a truly great film in him; I just don’t think this is it.

—Wolfman Josh

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15 thoughts on “31 Days of Halloween – Day 10: Mine Games (2014) – by Wolfman Josh

  1. 31 Days of Halloween day 10

    25. Executive Koala (*) – Furries only.
    26. Digging Up the Marrow (**) – I imagine this was his pitch “You know what was really good? Nightbreed! Let’s do that but instead we’ll do a movie about a film crew looking for Midian.”
    27. The Company of Wolves (****) – Neil Jordan directed gothic fairy tale is now in my top 10 of werewolf movies.
    28. Teen Lust (****) – If you like Todd and the Book of Pure Evil then this is your jam. Worth it for Cary Elwes’ performance.

    • Your reviews are hilarious. I love The Company of Wolves and Digging Up the Marrow was already on my list, but you actually made that more intriguing to me bc I love Nightbreed. And Teen Lust just jumped WAY up on my list.

  2. (Spoiler free)

    Day 10 – Sleepaway Camp 3 (1989)

    With how much I love Sleepaway Camp 2, despite it’s shortcomings, Sleepaway Camp 3: Teenage Wasteland should be an easy hit for me. It was released only a year after Sleepaway Camp 2, it once again stars Pamela Springsteen as Angela, Michael A. Simpson directs again, and you even have writer, Fritz Gordon, handling the script. With all of these similarities and in the same time period, it’s impossible for this to be bad in my eyes. Well, not only is it terrible, but I’d rank it right up there with some of the worst slashers on the 80’s. Everything I dug about the second film that made it surprisingly watchable despite not being “Good”, is absent here.

    The aspect about Unhappy Campers the most is that despite the restrictions by the MPAA, they still found ways to have crazy creative kills. They just did all of those kills with little to no blood. Here, it’s an editing disaster. Forget about hoping for blood, you don’t even get to see the kills. For every kill, you see the weapon coming and then the camera cuts away. Then we get a very quick shot of the after effects. The creativity isn’t there either. In Unhappy Campers, Angela used a different weapon for every kill. Here, she repeats herself some. She uses a log to kill three people in a row. Late in the movie, she used a contraption to kill a couple of campers with axes. To get around the inability to show anything graphic, we get a couple of very un-slasher like kills with Angela running an early victim over with a truck and even shooting another with a gun. A gun? A GUN?! The only time a horror icon should be using a gun in a kill is when they do as Michael Myers did in Halloween 4 by using a shotgun to impale a person.

    The issues continue with so little going on. This might be tough to describe, but there’s these long periods of time where nothing is actually happening. I don’t just mean the lack of action, but also a very sparse soundtrack. There’s very little music and sound effects, so there’s times where characters are standing around, not doing anything, not saying anything, and it’s dead space. It’s not the type of dead space you’ll see in the old Universal Monsters movies. Those moments are all about the atmosphere. Midway in the movie, we follow Angela taking a garbage bag to the dump site. They don’t jump ahead or anything. We have to slowly walk with Angela as she heads into the buildings, stands around, and has flashbacks to Unhappy Campers. Yet, the flashbacks that we see didn’t actually happen in the previous movie. I’m dying for the movie to get back to the story, but they’re too busy trying to pad the script with a random flashback with Angela’s epic road to throwing away garbage. It’s torture.

    It seems like at the conclusion of every slasher film, the final girl(s) will walk into the room with all of the dead bodies, realizing what sort of trouble she’s in. This simple scene is ruined because the lighting is so low that you can’t even see the bodies. It’s bad enough we didn’t see the death scenes, we didn’t see any gore, but now we can’t even see the big reveal? Much like in Unhappy Campers, the film does live up to the typical slasher policy of showing a lot of naked girls. If nothing else, Teenage Wasteland did give us plenty of nudity. Literally within the first minute, we’re seeing boobs. In fact, we get a super close up of them. In a weird move though, all of the nudity is thrown within the first fifteen or twenty minutes. Not that I’m going to complain about seeing nudity, but it seems odd to not spread to boobs around. Maybe I’m not in the mood to see all of those boobs within the first fifteen minutes. Maybe I’m the type of guy that loves seeing nudity at the fifty-three minute mark!

    I do really love the character of Angela Baker. Every horror icon is known for being a judge for morality. As Randy Meeks once taught us, if you have sex, do drugs, drink, or just generally do things that you know you shouldn’t be doing, ya gonna die. However, every other horror icon doesn’t technically go after those characters for those reasons. The icons go after the characters for one of two reasons. Either A) You’re being killed because you’re not paying attention (AKA the anti-Laurie Strode) or B) You’re dying solely because the horror icon has a target in mind and thus he’s going after you solely because you pose a potential threat to getting to that target (AKA that’s exactly what Michael Myers does). It just so happens that the horror icons can easily get at the characters when they’re distracted. Angela, on the other hand, lives up to this horror reputation. She wants to punish all those that are not good boys and girls. There’s a fun scene in the middle of the film where Angela is asking one camper various questions to see whether or not they deserve to receive the Angela Baker form of punishment. Of course, Teenage Wasteland messes this up some as some of Angela’s victims aren’t entirely deserving. At the end of Unhappy Campers, she did kill everyone, but that was at a point where she was busted and she just wanted to clear any loose ends. She was never in that position in this film, thus the need to try and kill everyone wasn’t necessary.

    Overall, Sleepaway Camp 3: Teenage Wasteland is a gigantic disappointment. There’s not much there to interest the average viewer, particularly when they couldn’t even get the things right that they did well in Unhappy Campers. The kills are terrible, Angela doesn’t have her fantastic one liners, there’s some big plot holes (How did Angela even know that her original victim was going to camp?), and it lacks any of the fun value that the previous two had. One of the very, very few things that I liked was the twist on the happy endings that most movies have. The movie wraps up with what you think would be a typical ending, but there’s a revelation that made me howl with laughter. Mind you, it’s one little line and it doesn’t make up for the fact that the rest of it fails in every other category. It’s a shame too because on paper, this was a can’t miss hit for me.

    I’d give the movie a 1.5 and a strong recommendation to avoid and pretend it doesn’t exist.

    • I’m not familiar enough with these movies. Other than the first, I get the sequels all mixed up in my head and I’m not even sure which ones I’ve seen.

      A 1.5?! Wow, that’s the lowest score I ever remember you giving anything. I need to refresh my memory on this franchise, but I guess I won’t start here.

      • Considering how few ratings I’ve posted on HMP and their sister sites, a 1.5 is probably the lowest rating I’ve given out. Had Sleepaway Camp 2 not have been as entertaining as it was to me, I likely would have given Sleepaway Camp 3 a higher rating. When a movie fails on even the most basic and few expectations you have, it’s hard to give the movie any credit whatsoever.

        I don’t know how you’d feel about the Sleepaway Camp sequels. They’re too Friday the 13th sequels-like with it all being so by the numbers and not being able to care about anyone. If you don’t mind a movie that is just about having some fun and seeing creative kills, Sleepaway Camp 2 is more than worth the watch.

    • I love this series. Im glad you’re reviewing them, Sal Roma. I agree that the 3rd is the worst of the bunch but I’ll still put it on in the summer while I’m folding laundry or something. The second one is really fun and the first one is very unique.

  3. Just to illustrate how memorable Mine Games is, I saw it back in February, but it wasn’t until near the end of Josh’s review that I remembered that I had seen it. I’m kind of sick of these time bending movies. Once you see a couple, you can easily detect when a movie is going down that path, when that reveal is supposed to be big.

    Joseph Cross looked like the missing third Ashmore brother, which only further confuses me when it seems as if Shawn Ashmore is in every other movie that was made since the dawn of time. I can’t tell you what a shock it was when I realized Shawn wasn’t in hundreds of movies, but rather he had a brother named Aaron, who was an actor too. Ha.

    • Maybe Richard Gray’s The Lookalike is about Joseph Cross realizing that his acting career is based on being able to trade as the poor-man’s Shawn (or Aaron) Ashmore.

      That always bugs me out. Same thing, of course, with actor Jeremy London and his far more talented actor brother Jason London. This seems ridiculous now, but early in their careers, I always mixed up Aaron Eckhart and Thomas Jane. It took me years to realize that they were different people.

      • The London brothers are the 90’s version of the Ashmore brothers for me. I went through nearly the entire 90’s just thinking Jeremy London was getting cast in everything before learning he had a twin brother.

        In recent years, I’ve struggled with telling Olivia Thirlby (The Darkest Hour) from Analeigh Tipton (Warm Bodies). Whenever I see one of them in a movie, I’m never sure which one it is.

  4. Since I blew the streak I’m just gonna watch what I can…Today I watched…
    The Final Girls…
    Rating…9.5 (A must own!)
    What a great suprise this movie was…its sky rocketed into my top 3 of the year…What a unique, clever, fresh, fun homage to the slasher movie genre…

    • Oh, man. I was going to review that for Day 10 but I decided I’d better wait and review the new movies on the actual podcast. So, my reviews for Deathgasm and The Final Girls are coming on our next Frankensteinian episode. I need to buckle-down and watch the older movies that I’d planned to watch, but there are so many interesting newer movies out there!

      • Yes Josh…These movies deserve the podcast treatment…I love these two movies so much…Going into the home stretch…I gotta say it’s been a pretty good year for horror with some real gems coming out lately…Now bring on Tales of Halloween!!!

        • I have a friend who’s been bugging me to watch the Final Girls with him. I trust your recommendation more that his, Shannon, so it’s going on my list. I’m stoked for Tales of Halloween too.

  5. Nice write-up on MINE GAMES. I tend to agree with most of your points on the film, although I thought the entire cast was pretty bad. You’re right, though, that Rebecca Da Costa was by far the worst.

    I watched this movie earlier this year, and thought it was entertaining enough for what it is. I didn’t go into it expecting my mind to be blown. I was expecting a middle-of-the-road horror movie, which is what I think I got. In other words, it’s worth checking out if it’s in front of you and you don’t feel like finding something else. (or if you’re into time loop/alternate reality horror movies)

    You left out the best part of the movie, though, which is the opening sequence of the movie. Honestly, that opening sequence is probably why I stuck with the movie despite the awful acting. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie never quite lived up to it.

  6. Day 10: The Devil’s Messenger
    I really enjoyed this cheesy movie. I got it in one of those 100 horror movie sets where they are all public domain and some company puts them all together. The Devil’s Messenger is an anthology which surprised me. There are 3 stories that play out like twighlight zone episodes with Lon Chaney Jr. playing the Devil in a connecting story.

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