Mine Games (2012/2014)

"Time is a gypsy caravan steals away the light, to leave you stranded in dreamland." Rush had the whole timey-wimey thing figured out long before writer/director Richard Gray ever sat down to begin work on Mine Games (FKA The Evil Within). But that doesn't mean that Gray can't take Neil Peart's sentiments, turn them up and flip them all around. Mine Games is a film that is rooted in the cyclical nature of time and the idea that we simply repeat ourselves over and over again through our time streams. It's not the first time someone has tackled time in this way. Dennis Iliadis' disappointing +1 showed us that cyclical time can be an alien phenomenon, part of some ill conceived colonization plan. Grays film makes no such conceits. Leaving the explanation open to audience interpretation. But unlike, +1, is Mine Games any good? Let's take a look...

Mine Games begins as 98% of horror films are required to do, with a group of 20 somethings in a van heading for a cabin. Usual stereotypes apply. There is the sensitive everyman with the girl next door hot girlfriend, Michael and Lyla (Joseph Cross and Briana Evigan.) We have the loudmouth drunk,
Lex, (Rafi Gavron) and the intuitive, earthy girl, Rose (Rebecca Da Costa) straight from horror casting 101. And while casting stereotypes may be annoying, it's not as bad as having "the rest." There are three other characters who are just kind of there. Using paper thin to describe them would be inferring paper has a weight problem.

Very early on it's established that our everyman, Michael, is prone to bouts of schizophrenia and he is is on special medication to help him with the problem, and if you forgot about it, don't worry, Lyla will mention it again in 5 minutes. Standard horror movie plot developments ensue. The van breaks down after swerving to avoid hitting a shadowy figure. They walk to what may or may not be the right cabin. They go exploring in the woods and find a creepy old abandoned mine shaft. Here's where Mine Games starts earning it's stripes.

As soon as they enter the cave things suddenly are not what they seem. There are warnings strewn throughout the caves. Warnings seemingly meant for them. Rose starts to act weird, something everyone sort of chalks up to her taking some magic mushrooms just before entering the cave. Then Michael starts to fall off the deep end. After Rose issues some cryptic warnings regarding Michael and he acknowledges he's stopped taking his meds, the group turns on him. Locking him in the cave, the film sets up a third act that will literally knock your dick in the dirt.

With Mine Games, Gray has crafted a film that makes you immediately want to back and watch it a second time. While the first act shows some promise, it's the second laced with it's clues and the third act, that puts everything together that makes Mine Games stand head and shoulders above most "cabin in the woods" films. The acting is better than most ensemble casts in these types of films. Evigan and Julianna Guill (one of the rest) are reliable horror veterans at this point. Cross, as the crazy (or is he?) Michael is very good, although his resemblance to Shawn and Aaron Ashmore is ridiculous. Everyone else is serviceable and that's really all you need from a film like this. Once the bodies get paired down, all you need is the last two or three folks to be good.

A predictable and rather boring first act, along with some thin secondary and tertiary characters are really the only pock marks on Mine Games. If you can get to the 25 minute mark with an open mind and aren't seduced into thinking the film is something you've seen a hundred times before, then there is a hell of a lot redeeming value in the film. It's one of those rare films that's pretty good the first time you watch it but even better the second time.

Director Richard Gray is slated to direct the English remake of Takashi Miike's Audition, which, after the Oldboy remake makes my skin crawl. But after seeing Grays storytelling ability in Mine Games (yeah, the too punny title is pretty stupid) I feel a little less annoyed about the remake.

Mine Games will be available on DVD September 16th in the US and in Canada. Check it out.

*** and a half stars out of *****

As always, thanks for reading...and "enjoy every sandwich"

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