Editor’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.Soon, 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.
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