By Chaz Lipp
Mine Games features a plot that revolves around a group of young adults exploring an abandoned, possibly haunted mine. It’s direct-to-DVD horror flick (previously known as The Evil Within) coming in September from Phase 4 Films. Shot near Seattle, mostly in a suitably under-populated wooded area, the typical genre clichés are present and accounted for. First there’s the group of six characters, three guys and three gals, played by actors who look a bit too old for their respective roles. They’re tooling out into the wilderness for a drinking, partying excursion at a log cabin. After a minor road mishap disables their van, they hoof it the rest of the way. An initially carefree night of booze and sex (yes, there’s some obligatory nudity, courtesy of the lovely Julianna Guill) gives way to the beginning of some spooky occurrences.
Aussie director Richard Gray takes a bit too long to instigate the chills, but there’s something to be said for his slow-build, psychological thriller approach. The dialogue is mostly witless, which leaves the actors struggling to do what they can with it. But in actuality, this isn’t really any better or worse than similar films that regularly land on the DTV junk pile. As the six friends begin venturing out into their forest surroundings and into the dilapidated mine, Rose (Rebecca Da Costa) begins having horrific visions. Written off as some sort of shroom-induced paranoia, the others grapple to understand what’s going on. Rose believes she’s being attacked and soon begins hallucinating that everyone around her is covered in sores and decaying flesh.
Briana Evigan (Andie in the Step Up film franchise) is the ostensible star here and she brings an understated level-headedness to the proceedings. Michael (Joseph Gross), on the other hand, is the wild card – he’s off his meds and somewhat unpredictable. Londoner Rafi Gavron (at TV veteran, Life Unexpected, 24, Rome) plays the edgy Lex, managing to match Evigan as the most charismatic cast member. Lex is the natural skeptic, rejecting the ideas put forth by the others, including the creepily confident TJ (Alex Meraz, Paul in the Twilight movies). Theories for the visions of dead bodies and other supernatural phenomenon abound as the friends’ getaway descends into a nightmarish experience.
There’s a new video game called The Evil Within. The decision to revert back to Mine Games, its original title in the first place, was a great idea. Whether or not Phase 4 Films’ decision was motivated by possible confusion with the video game, I don’t know. Whatever the case, Mine Games is an atmospheric, albeit rather humorless, horror outing that genre junkies might consider worth a look.
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Images: Phase 4 Films