Thursday, November 13, 2014

Beneath (2014)

As this is a brand new movie put on Netflix just a little while ago, I'd like to take this opportunity to say how thankful I am that I can review these movies and help a budding young start-up company like Netflix succeed in this harsh business climate. I'll be waiting for my check in the mail, guys. Just make it out to Cinema Freaks.

After the runaway successes of Mine Games in 2012 and Abandoned Mine in 2013, film producers thought they were really onto something with this whole mine thing. So this year we got the third installment to this epic trilogy with Beneath – a true-life story, apparently, about a bunch of miners that got stuck in a mine or some shit like that. I would try and put some effort into looking up about the true story that inspired this, but frankly that would be doing more work than the writers for this movie did. And I'm not about to do that.

Director: Ben Ketai
Starring: Kelly Noonan, Jeff Fahey

We start this crap off with a bunch of bland white people hanging out in a shitty bar celebrating this girl Sam's dad's retirement from working in a mine. There's a bit of flirting, a little bit of back and forth banter, but really nothing substantial.

"Do you think this movie will seem better if we keep on drinking?"
"Probably not, but go ahead and try!"

The first twenty minutes of the movie are like this, in fact. Pretty much just bland people talking about bland things. I'll give it credit for not being complete asinine stupidity or cliché like the other two mine movies I've done, but it isn't replacing that with anything else. I guess the only thing of note that happens is when the guys dare Sam to come down in the mine with them because her whole college tuition was paid for by her father's mine job.

Being a complete idiot, she of course says yes. And to one up her on the idiocy scale, both her father and boyfriend have absolutely no problem with her coming down into the mine with them even though she'll probably just be a liability and will just be standing around doing nothing. I don't really know how I'm supposed to be invested in this – I mean, Bring Your Daughter to Work Day was awkward enough for the daughter of the town gynecologist. You don't really need to compete here, you jackasses.

"Dad, I miss the old days when you just neglected me all the time as opposed to dragging me down into a mine to die."

They have some more very bland, safe dialogue that mostly listens like they were just trying to fill the space. Because you know how it is – creating dialogue is kind of like filling in the cracks of cement on the sidewalk. It's just a utilitarian thing.

"So how much longer do we have to read the boring dialogue from this script? I could come up with better lines in my sleep!"
"Hell, I could come up with better lines drunk off my ass!"

You know what else is utilitarian? This crazy looking machine!

Chekhov's Gun? What's that?

Which I'm sure won't be used to kill anyone in this movie. Because that would just be foreshadowing if you showed THAT ahead of time!

Sigh. The movie apparently thinks it's interesting to have the characters wandering around explaining things about the mine. If you really think that's a good idea, just stop watching this movie, drive to West Virginia and ask them what they think about climate change issues and carbon emissions, and you'll have a much better time.

It turns out even the mine itself is bored of them, as it falls asleep and collapses randomly. I guess it was just waiting for the right time to do that, as clearly it's an incredible coinky-dink that it happened when they were inside the mine for five minutes AND the only time they brought a “fish out of water” character in with them! How dramatically convenient!

I also love that they decided to bring her down into this mine that apparently was in danger of collapsing. Even disregarding the randomness of nature, you'd think they would've gone “hey, fragile young woman who has no experience in mines, maybe THIS isn't the right mine for you to come down into because it might collapse!” But that wouldn't have been as funny. Or, again, as dramatically convenient, because if real life can't imitate art, what can?

They all make their ways to this special emergency center thing where they can hide out and not die from a lack of oxygen. One of the guys, I guess, hurts his leg when a rock falls on it, and so he's pretty much confined there. They all demonstrate their Oscar-worthy scowls and looking worried skills, but really, unless this is going to be the mine version of The Thing, I just can't bring myself to care.

Just keep scowling at the floor. For inspiration, try thinking of how disappointing the final movie will be when you actually see it.

They eventually make the decision to go look for some of their buddies who might've gotten lost in the chaos of the collapse. One guy says he doesn't want to go wandering around out there, and the others get mad and start bullying him into coming. I don't even get it; if he doesn't want to come, who gives a shit? Just leave him there and go yourselves! Why would you even want someone with you who isn't into the idea? It'd just slow you down in the end! But I guess they're operating on “teenage girls going to the bathroom” rules and have to travel in a pack, you know, like all miners.

"You don't want to go with us? Well that is just unacceptable. You are now the new leader of this group!"
"But that means I could just call off the whole thing with my newfound leadership power!"

Because this is a place some of these people have worked for years and should know it like the back of their hand, of course they get lost and spend a lot of the next half hour just stumbling around. If you aren't tired of scenes of characters wandering around in the dark shining flashlights at rocks, well, you will be after watching this shit for 25 minutes straight.

I guess one guy does finally get caught in that wacky death trap machine from earlier, but even then, it's not like the movie lets us see that. Like most great horror movies, it skimps out on the gore and instead just replaces it with a pitch black void of soul-sucking nothingness.

They just do more of the same shit again and again for the rest of the movie's second act. At one point, they're called back and end up losing the oxygen in their tank, which really stresses Sam's father out. He goes on a whole rant about how Sam wanted him to retire because she's a big shot lawyer now and her and her mother both were conspiring against him. It's really quite an insane temper tantrum and has nothing to do with anything in the rest of the movie, nor does it ever come up again. So...good job?

Somebody needs a nap. Or a swift decapitation - whichever's more your bag.

I just really want to see them get out of this alive, then Sam's dad comes to visit her at her lawyer job and the exact same thing happens. Like they get trapped inside a law office and have to navigate through the endless halls of litigation paperwork, manila folders and zombies in order to get out. That would be a good movie.

Because, yes, that’s what this movie has in its third act - zombie-like creatures.

I’m just so glad this based-on-a-true-story film is keepin’ it real for those of us who are really interested in mining accidents. The usual dangers are all here. Suffocation, dying of loneliness...zombies.

They have a battle with this one guy who gets possessed and lock him in a cage. He then turns back to normal and says he’s fine and doesn’t understand why he’s locked in a cage. This character, throughout the goddamn movie, has been consistently abrasive, assholeish and rude. So really, maybe he wasn’t possessed and the characters just finally pulled the wool off their eyes and realized he was a dick.

"Yeah, we know you weren't really a killer. We just really hate you."

They go back to the shelter and come up with the brilliant idea to blow up dynamite to try and make a hole so they can escape. They find the very old dynamite very easily, which looks exactly like they just took it out of a Roadrunner cartoon of course, and really why wouldn’t they have this unlit dynamite from a hundred years ago in a mine that people still use today? It just makes the most sense.

Then they light them and nothing but a small piece of paper with 'BANG' written on it pops out.

Unfortunately, before they can get to that, there are more zombies afoot who can magically change back to human whenever they want! For a movie trying to sell itself as ‘based on a true story,’ they sure are good at pulling these zombie rules straight out of their asses, because I’ve literally never heard of this being a thing at all.

Then they blow up the wall and of course escape the thunderous, fiery ball of destruction that ensues by hiding behind a wall a few feet away, and survive without a scratch on them. Realistic, just the way I like my horror movies.

Then they get saved and it turns out that, DUN DUN DUN, Sam has become a zombie too! Oh no! That will immediately get noticed and then they’ll quarantine or kill her to prevent the spread of it, and nothing will happen at all!

I don't even get it; how did nobody not notice this? Why are they able to transform back and forth at will? WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?!?! I guess we'll never know, because this movie is over. A door that should remain closed, I think.

This movie is boring. I mean, the least they could have done was just go all the way with the abject ridiculousness of the scenario and toss in giant slimy worm monsters in the mine, or characters having sex scenes set to ridiculous 2000s wannabe grunge music. No, those things wouldn’t have made it a better film, but at least it would have been kind of funny.

Instead we got the tired “based on a true story” crap, which apparently for this movie meant making it as dull and bland as they could, with little memorable dialogue, no good characters and really only like one or two half-decent scares. Oh, and zombies and stuff, which totally round out this whole thing as a credible true story. I apologize for continually repeating that sarcastic quip about the movie’s realism, but honestly it’s just baffling to me that these movies even try to pass off that “true story” crap as a legit story device...when you confront them about it, a lot of them will say “oh, well it’s only based on a true story, but we took some creative artistic licenses with it and made it better!”

If you’re really trying to tell a true story, why bother fabricating ridiculous horror cliche tropes around it? Why not just make your own fictional, fantastical story if you want to throw in zombies? You have to pick one - either it’s a true story, in which case you stick to realistic horror (which can’t be that hard to do in a claustrophobic, dark-ass mine), or you just ditch the “based on a true story” angle and tell a goofy fantastical horror tale. But you won’t, because saying it’s based on a true story is an easy shortcut to cover up for crap writing.

Sigh. On second thought, doing these mine movies was a terrible idea. Why didn’t anyone stop me? The only pervading lesson throughout all of them was, don’t ever go in a fucking mine.

Images copyright of their original owners; I own none of them.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Dear Hollywood: Stop Planning Ahead

Movies in the last few years have become a little too homogenous for my liking. It seems like every single movie coming out – at least during the summer blockbuster season – is some kind of sequel, remake or adaptation of something else. Now, this is not something new to any of you reading this blog or most moviegoers who have been awake for the last half-decade – I'm not becoming Captain Obvious on you here.

But I do think something has to be said for the sheer level of planning ahead Hollywood is doing with these – it isn't just that they're making these superhero sequels, book adaptations and spinoffs of popular franchises, but that they're also planning them ahead of time to ridiculous amounts more befitting of a tiger mom planning out her four-year-old's doctorate degree years and years in the future.

You want proof? Well, how about the fact that the new film based off the Harry Potter spin off book Fantastic Creatures and Where to Find them will actually now be MORE THAN A TRILOGY. Keep in mind the original book was like 80 pages and served as a fun little extra add-on to the main series. And now it's going to be like six more movies. If we're lucky.

Look, I get it – people love Harry Potter. I remember reading the books as a kid and have very fond memories; they were great books and they got me more interested in reading books when I was young. That's fine. I know people love the movies too; that's also fine – go wild and love them more than anything if you want. Obviously the movies had to be made as the books were so successful and people wanted to see the characters and events on screen – that happens any time a book gets popular; I have no problem with that.

What I do have a problem with is the absolute ridiculous lengths this is being taken to with this new series – more than three movies for an 80-page book? Are you serious? That's insane. They didn't do it this way back in the 80s. Notice how we didn't get a trilogy for each segment of the Back to the Future movies explaining how the various alternate timelines came to pass. There was no Indiana Jones prequel trilogy where we got to see three movies of him as a kid learning to jump off shit and lash with a whip. Though, honestly I hesitate to say that, as I'm afraid of what might happen next.

It's just too much. The best stories aren't great because they never end and have spinoffs made about minuscule elements of the story – they're great because they end at the right time. The traditional story arc is a beginning, a middle and an end; not a beginning, middle, end and then a billion little side-stories, anecdotes and addendums attached on and forced on the population like a kid who won't eat his veggies with his mouth held open. That's not a real story; it's just not being able to let go of something at the right time. It's no different than a shitty TV show dragging on for twelve seasons long after everyone's done watching.

And it's quite insidious how they hook you in – the persisting argument in favor for these endless spinoffs, rehashes, sequels, is that they're showing us something we need the answer to, or that they're showing us the backstory of something. It's a quite devilish marketing ploy that's really just a thinly-veiled excuse to keep making money – oh, we need to explain this one thing from the original series, so we're throwing billions of dollars and plenty of talented actors, backstage guys and more to GIVE YOU THOSE EXPLANATIONS. Never mind the buckets of money pouring into our pockets and the general dead-eyed cynicism of the rest of the public. It's to answer our questions!

I realize I'm kind of in the minority on this, but I'm going to say it: The best stories don't need tons and tons of explanations. If you can't draw us in with your characters, world-building, plot twists, social commentary or whatever other elements you wanted to convey, and you have to explain pages and pages of exposition and facts and tidbits and then go on to make prequels where you explain your probably need to re-work your narrative a little bit. If you can't convey whatever you need to do in your beginning-middle-end story arc, you probably don't need to be making money in Hollywood. But alas – they are anyway.

Aside from that, do good stories need EVERYTHING explained? Can nothing be ambiguous or left to the imagination? I'm not saying everything has to be a Lynchian escapade into the depths of the soul and have all kinds of artsy abstractions, I just think there's something to be said for the power of mystery and of telling a story over explaining every minute detail. The whole matters more than the cogs and gears that make it up, if you know what I mean. Get an emotional message across, and have a point to what you're doing. Then worry about explaining the technical details. But that's just me. Apparently some see it differently, and that's your own prerogative I guess. But even so, there comes a point when explaining and more explaining is just a bad storytelling form.

On the other hand of this two-forked road to hell we have DC and their upcoming “I wish we were as cool as Marvel” attempt, also known as Batman vs Superman. I'll also accept for the name “We forgot what was cool about The Dark Knight and instead accentuated its worst elements.” The Dark Knight was great because it finally gave us a comic book movie that took itself seriously, and no I don't mean in the way that it was gritty and violent. I mean it was serious in that it was an actual movie. It took characters we loved from a different medium and worked them into a real movie with those characters in adapted roles because Christopher Nolan actually understood that film is a different media than comics and you don't need to have everything exactly the fucking same all the time.

These days, you don't really get that. I dunno, but I get the idea a lot of these comic movies are seriously afraid of the batshit "HOW DARE YOU CHANGE A THING FROM OUR HOLY TEXT" crowd on the Internet, because comic movies since then have never reached that same level of cinematic quality. As good as some of the early Marvel movies got, there was always a pervading safeness to them, where it just felt like the sole purpose was for the audience to go 'hey, there's that character I liked! There's that thing I wanted to see happen!' Maybe some people feel differently, but that's kinda what I keep getting from those films.

They have a shitload of other superhero tie-ins set up for the next six years until 2020 – well, bravo. You guys do realize we don't really need every single movie to be lined out for us, right? I mean goddamn. You're already sitting on a ton of money. It's not like peoples' interest will wane if you don't shovel the information down our throats every damn day. Just chill the fuck out!

This whole thing is just out of hand as well because, as many before me have said, WE DON'T NEED THAT MANY SUPERHERO FILMS. Do you guys really think peoples' favorite movies lists are going to be comprised in 15 years of just Marvel and DC adaptations? I wouldn't be complaining if these films were made by genuine fans who just wanted to convey the story, but for the most part, these movies are made just to keep the conveyor belt moving to make more movies after that, whether it's sequels or 'collaboration' films like Avengers or Justice League – that's the only reason they're doing all these separate films, which is a shame because I'm sure under different management, we could get some really gripping and powerful stories out of them. If you're a huge die-hard comic fan, you could probably go further than me here and list off some of the emotional conflicts, drama and social messages that could possibly be tackled, which DC will definitely not do and we'll deservedly hate them for it.

Marvel tends to fare a little better on this aspect, as their films are at least entertaining enough to watch in theaters – but even that is going to wear thin, and probably pretty soon. They got lucky with Guardians of the Galaxy being such a fun, emotional movie, but I just don't think they can keep it up for much longer. People are going to get tired of these films. The comic geeks will stick to their comics and the casual fans will start to move on and go “hey, I really feel like watching a nice drama or a gripping detective mystery.”

"Hmmm...on second thought, Pride and Prejudice sounds good about now!"

It's just the endless stream of sequels and connections – yes, it was an interesting idea, but it's too much now. It's overcooked. There are too many options and people will get burnt out. If you're just making movies that will only exist so you can make more movies, it becomes a cannibalistic process. There eventually won't be any reason to go see more, because you'll just be worn the hell out of all of it. Superhero films are reaching the oversaturation point. It's coming fast, and soon the bottom will drop out and the whole thing will be fucked. Nobody really wants THAT many big-ass movies full of explosions and guys shelling out witty quips. It might sound great at first, but just like that time you ate too many of your grandma's fudge brownies and then spent the rest of the night moaning on the floor in the bathroom – you'll soon find it wasn't what you wanted. It was too much and you got sick of it.

I started this thing weeks ago and more shit keeps coming out that I feel like I could add to it. A Toy Story 4? Really? Granted, the other three are near-flawless kid's movies, so logically I should be excited, but...the third one was such a fucking perfect ending. Why make another? You can end on a high note! It isn't too late! You can still cancel the project before it goes too far down the rabbit hole!

Granted, this is the only part of this article I'm going to say might turn out OK. I mean, yes, I would've rather it ended with the third one. But maybe, just maybe, there's a chance it could be okay - despite my worries of it turning into another sequel-marathon down the road...

I guess really it all boils down to one thing – are these movies going to be good? After all, that is the main consideration when talking about any kind of art – does it succeed at what it wanted to do, and is it quality? It may be presumptuous of me to say so, and some of you may not agree, but I'm going to say no, they probably won't be – at least not as good as any one of them individually might've been, if it was made purely out of a love for storytelling, moviemaking or anything else.

The movies I mentioned in this article, for the most part, are being made just to continue shoveling out more movies after them. They're machinations in a conveyor belt, not integral, impassioned stories. With the sheer volume of crap just lined up to come out years and years from now, planned out as meticulously as a trip itinerary for a busy lawyer, is ANY of it going to have even a little bit of a point to it? Any slightly good ideas in these movies will be lost in the constant static-noise of the rest of them all cluttering up the box office every week. They already have so many big plot elements and events planned out that there won't be any room for actual creativity in the process. Where's the spontaneity, the twists, the original creativity that directors and actors will get to bring to the table? It's incredibly telling that Idris Elba, while working on the last Thor movie, called the process “torture” while he would've rather been working on a more personal project.

But alas – this is just echoes in the wind. What I've said here won't change anything in the big picture. That will have to be left to Hollywood once this whole thing blows up in their face.

Images copyright of their original owners; I own none of them.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Mine Games (2012)

In the oversaturated realm of movies about haunted mines, there are many ways you can draw the audience's attention. And in terms of THAT, Mine Games is a failure. Why? Because it's called Mine Games, and as we all know, mines are no game. Mines are serious business. They're the most serious thing. So serious, you can go crazy inside them.

Or so says this movie.

Director: Richard Gray
Starring: Alex Meraz, Briana Evigan

This movie starts us off on a high note with a bunch of annoying characters exchanging horrible dialogue while driving to a soundtrack of shitty 2000s pop music. Oh, did I say high note? I meant incredibly lowest common denominator possible.

Their story is, they're on a trip to somebody's house in the woods. They stop in a field to re-enact their favorite scenes from The Room before they pile back in the car like a few minutes later to keep on going.

I guess he must weigh like 75 pounds if that football bowled him over like that. He should definitely get really fat so it never happens again. Or just hang out with Tommy Wiseau more.

I guess the one slight sliver of plot we get here is that one of the guys, Michael, has stopped taking his anti-psychotic medication. Even though the film doesn't seem to understand that not taking medications like that is a pretty serious deal, we get the storyline foraging ahead anyway, like a dumb explorer stumbling onto a minefield – suffice to say, no, taking anti-psychotic meds DOESN'T mean you're suppressing your inner killer which will emerge and lead you to slaughter your friends the second you stop.

"Please don't look at my creepy face and assume I'm the killer!" 

They almost crash into a guy in the middle of the road and end up breaking down not too long after. It's OK, though, as they can just walk right from that to the house they were looking for – it's confusing, as it seems a bit like they're lost at first, but then they find the place they wanted in a few minutes or so. It's really just an example of the movie feeling unfinished – several parts of the script just taper off unfocused, like an unfinished suicide note, so then you're just kinda left wondering, forever gazing into that starry black void.

It's cool, though. We got partying and sex scenes out the ass!

Smiling and holding a glass = having fun.
I'm glad we get to see the director's attempt at a porno shoved awkwardly into this horror movie. That really rounds it out and makes it a solid film!

Alright! Now that's how you develop character. Glad somebody's still doing it right!

The next day they do what most kids their age do – go hang out in the old abandoned mine conveniently right down the road from them. I'll give the movie credit for not spending an ass-load of time in there, and also for not having them get stuck for the rest of the movie. But I also take away credit for a scene where they lock Michael up in a room where he almost gets stuck.

Ah yes...the old 'lock him in a mine' trick. It's a gut buster and a great story to tell at parties...if you have no brain.

And also for the scene where these two idiots think they're running in a circle after eating mushrooms, then get lost...fortunately they don't get TOO lost, but even so, the one guy trying to get the chick to make out with him is a bit out of place. “Hey, don't you get turned on by creepy old abandoned mines we might die in?!”

"But this is where I take all my girlfriends!"

I'm really just waiting for them to run into the actual miners who were just on break. They'd be goofing off in here, then the actual miners would show up and be like “hey, what are you assholes doing in here?” And that would be that. Maybe add in some misdemeanor criminal charges, a little bit of fines and disappointing glares from their parents and relatives that would have been there anyway given how these characters acted beforehand. But that's wishful thinking I suppose.

That one girl, Rose, is apparently a psychic – because the movie didn't know how else to convey its plot. She spends the rest of the film after this sick and in bed because of some scratches on her foot. 

It ain't her fault she ran into Wolverine in that damn mine...

All I can say is, either you gave this chick some bad 'shrooms, or she maybe shouldn't ever be in the same hemisphere as drugs again if THIS is how she reacts! Goddamn, right?

The others are truly broken up about this, as we see them working through their grief with a game of pool – but it's okay; it's existential, deep pool used to work through their own stress and insanity. That's the best kind of thing to do after having a strange experience.

"Next we can play Mario Kart!"

I dunno, all these shots of them sitting around in bathing suits on bright sunny days just kinda clashes with the mounting dread we're supposed to be feeling. Is that supposed to set the mood? 'Cause it really doesn't – instead it just seems out of place.

The true essence of horror.

Two of them go back in the mine for some unknown reason and play some games with the mine cars – now THAT'S what I call a “mine game.” Good show, movie! Though the fact that he doesn't get brain damage from tipping over after crashing into a wall is a bit unrealistic, and disappointing at that.

Didn't I see this in a Donkey Kong game once?

Then they find a room where their own dead bodies are lying around on slabs. Which, understandably, is a bit of a mindfuck. I mean they didn't remember being DEAD. How could they? They were having such a good time drinking and partying. Nobody would be able to remember a little thing like that. I guess they'll have to really play some pool NOW to get over this!

"This is worse than that time I saw my previous self getting into a battle to the death with my future self! I needed a looooot of Prozac after that, I'll tell you! But this is just too much."

Back at the house, they decide it was Michael's fault somehow, because apparently the psychic girl Rose has mentioned his name a few times, and he's just been acting weird while off his meds. Because, again, that's just how it works. Most serial killers could be cured by having them take meds. But just don't let them get off, 'cause otherwise whoops, they might go on a killing spree! Then it'd really be your bad on that one.

"Oh yeah, we're the best friends ever! We're instantly suspicious of our friend because he didn't take his meds, to the point where we're ready to tie him up and throw him outside into an old mine!"

Well, I guess they also decided it was Michael's fault because they went back into the mine a third time and came across a future version of one of their friends, who told them Michael killed everybody. Gee. Either they never stopped eating mushrooms, or this is a big old time loop. Since there's no reason it would be a time loop as it hasn't been explained, I'm gonna go ahead and assume it's the other thing. I'm sure I won't be wrong at all.

They tie Michael up and lock him in the mine to prevent him from killing people. But then they go back in and Michael has broken out somehow. They chase him around and eventually die off in strange ways. The weirdest has to be this one girl, who just walks right into a room and lets him lock her in there. Did she just have a death wish? I mean it's kinda common sense - don't go into an enclosed space when you're running from a killer.

You totally get an 'F' at Slasher Movie Victim School, lady.

Then things get really weird as this Benedict Cumberbatch-looking guy apparently was the one who jumped in front of the road at the beginning of the movie, causing the truck to go off the road and crash. I'm just so shocked I was wrong about it just being a product of bad mushrooms! Apparently it really is a time loop! What an utter surprise...

All I'm thinking is: why do people in these fucking movies constantly stand out in the middle of the road? I dunno about you, but I've driven all over the place at all times of the day and that has never happened to me. I mean, what? Do you just drive around looking for people in the road, run them over and then reimagine the situation in your head to be like “THEY WERE STANDING RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD WAVING THEIR ARMS!” In what parallel universe do people just jump out in the road at night to wave their arms and distract other drivers? The DMV needs to put out a PSA about this.

And this is my biggest problem with this scene. And with the movie in general! I guess the fact that it doesn't explain why there's a time loop bothers me a little, too, though. Seriously, it just doesn't explain how this time loop exists!

Most of the last 15 minutes is just stuff explaining WHY all the creepy shit from earlier in the movie went on – i.e. Michael wrote the ominous message they found in the mine early in the movie! The Benedict Cumberbatch lookalike wrote the note they found that invited them into the house! Michael ran into his past self and that made him paranoid at the beginning!

Why did all these things happen? Because the movie needed to have them happen to show us the SUPER COOL TIME LOOP, YO. No other reason. There's really just no logic or reason to how the time loop happened or why Michael is crazy, except that he didn't take anti-psychotic meds. Which totally means you meet your past self in the woods and have a super-cool bonfire party:

I really want this loop to keep going and going, until we just have a fucking frat house full of Michaels hangin' out in the woods. That would be kinda funny. But unfortunately that doesn't happen, because the Mine Games are over, and with them, so is fun in general. Alas, poor fun – we knew ye well.

Eh, on second thought, fun will probably survive.

This whole thing was just nonsense. I mean in real life, we would at least be able to see why the time loop happened. Otherwise, it mostly sticks to realism. I mean, it's good movies are trying to address the real problems of mental illness. Never mind the complex nuances of human interaction – if you take anti-psychotic meds, you're probably just a fuckin' serial killer stuck in a time loop. Case closed!

Images copyright of their original owners; I own none of them.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Abandoned Mine (2013)

A year or so ago, I did a post about what was wrong with horror movies today, and in that post I took pictures of a bunch of DVD covers at my local movie rental store. One of those DVDs was Abandoned Mine, a film about a bunch of dumbass kids getting trapped in an abandoned mine as part of a Halloween prank. You could also call it “the Darwin effect.” And since I have run out of ideas completely, of course I'm just going to cannibalize my own past and do this as the last review for October this year!

Director: Jeff Chamberlain
Starring: Saige Thompson, Reiley McClendon, Alexa Vega

This movie starts off with several minutes of boring nothingness for the opening credits, because I guess they thought they really needed an opening that made people shrug and go “ehhhh.” Then we get our main character Brad, who has the distinction of having the most punchable face in the entire film.

He's going around trying to get his friends to join him in this SUPER COOL HALLOWEEN PROJECT yo, or rather what I already said – going down into this old abandoned mine to just hang out. Like I've said before...I really miss when kids just did drugs and got eachother pregnant.

If you need proof this movie has no idea what it wants to convey, well, get this – apparently Brad has invited his ex-girlfriend Laurie along, which is weird because his current girlfriend Sharon is also coming. And not only that, but Laurie and Sharon are also friends, who play wonderful tricks on one another like Laurie pretending to be a serial killer and then stabbing a ketchup bottle on the ground right next to Sharon. For some reason, Sharon is still panicked by this even after she isn't stabbed – does it just take her longer than most people to realize she hasn't been stabbed?

"I should realize I wasn't stabbed, but my brain moves at the pace of climate change, so I can't tell yet!"
"HA HA HA! You obviously are traumatized and I should be apologizing, but I'm a shitty friend. So nope!"

Maybe she's just empathic with condiments.

Then we get a several-minute long musical number scene where the two girls are trying on various costumes. It's really just an excuse to look down their shirts and watch girls who are supposed to be in high school getting dressed. It also comes off like it should have been in a Bratz movie.

Is it that hard to find a real live woman after writing a scene like this, show her what you wrote and ask "is this accurate?" Oh wait, yes it is, because you don't care about that - you just wanted jerk-off fuel. Being perverted is A-OK so long as you put it under the guise of characters dressing up for Halloween!

They all meet up in some empty field and we're introduced to some other characters, like Ben, who is a fat kid who plays football. And Ethan, who is an Indian guy who talks in a funny accent, is polite to a fault, misspells words and constantly knows everything about every trivia the characters need for the mine. I'd call this racist as fuck, but I think you actually would need to invent a new word to talk about what this is. It's at least as bad as blackface.

Somebody's going to hell for this, for sure.

There's some dialogue about how he used to work in a call center in India and how lots of Indian kids get those jobs – I refuse to become complicit in your attempt to make me confront racial stereotypes, movie!

While they're driving, someone mentions they're going to the old Jarvis Mine, which really freaks Sharon out, prompting her to start screaming about how SHE DIDN'T KNOW IT WAS THAT MINE, SHE THOUGHT IT WAS ONE OF THE OTHER HAUNTED MINES AROUND TOWN! Funny. I guess haunted mines are just like Walgreens around this town – there's one on every block.

They have a lot of really stupid conversations, which give off the aura that the writers just didn't want us to enjoy our time watching this. Like take a look at this gem:

LAURIE: I didn't know if I was supposed to be his mom or his girlfriend.

SHARON: Both, maybe.

LAURIE: Both is hard.

One, is it that hard to have your girl characters talk about ANYTHING besides the boy they dated? Two, that's gross and you should feel bad. I don't need to hear about any Oedipus complexes related to this face:

Then they sit around a campfire and Brad tells the longest ghost story ever – apparently in this story, some kid found gold in a mine and then grew up to have a family, but then the bosses tried to cut him out of his share of the mine. They kidnapped him and his daughters and raped the daughters in front of him – because there can't be a good horror story with women if they don't get raped... Then they became vengeful ghosts and spend the rest of eternity down there waiting to possess women, because possession is gender specific now.

Uh oh, better tell Pazuzu he got it wrong...

Then it starts to rain, so like idiots they hide inside the mine. They could just hang out there, but no! That wouldn't be stupid enough. They have to go further into the mine! I'm really just not sure what I'm supposed to be rooting for here. They're dumb characters doing a dumb thing on a whim – there's really no conflict or drama there. If the movie were scarier or more intense it might be easier to forget, but there's nothing but a bunch of obnoxious kids wandering around spewing putrid dialogue. What's there to latch onto?

They start going into the mine and somehow get lost in like five minutes – even though it was clear how to get out and they have nothing to gain by going deeper and deeper into this fucking place, I guess the story is running on the power of “hey! Putting my tongue in a wall socket sounds fun!” logic.

"Wait, let's check...nope, no point to what we're doing up there..." 

So they keep wandering around, going further up the ass of this old mine. Ethan keeps on hurling out random facts about mines, which starts to get ridiculous after a while. And by “after a while,” I of course mean it was never not ridiculous. He's Indian! He must know everything! That's just how Indians are. They're super-smart. Like Braniac from Superman, except with a funnier and more exaggerated accent.

"Wait, stop everything...I feel a psychic brainwave coming on that will give me the magical exposition-spewing powers all Indians have!"

When they come across a tight tunnel that may or may not lead to certain death, of course our brain-dead heroes are up for it. Except the fat kid doesn't want to get stuck and Sharon is just a wimp. Then it's bad dialogue time again!

BEN: Me and Sharon will just stay here. We'll probably, like, make a family or something together by the time you come back for us.

SHARON: I never would've been friends with you all these years if I had known how disgusting you were.

Because you know, friendship just means pulling the wool over your eyes and not caring who the fuck you're hanging out with, like at all! You could be friends with a serial killer and not notice until you literally just come across them stabbing some guy in an alleyway. Then you'd have just cause to be like “I never would have been your friend if I'd known THIS was what you meant when you said you killed people!” It just makes the most sense.

Then they get even more lost. Things finally start to look up a bit when Brad is killed, apparently by some kind of monster:

No, not that kind. I’m picturing something more like this:

Yeah, that ought to do it.

The other three wander around like this is their first day on Earth at all for a while until the movie decides it’s time to rip off [REC].

Then it’s just Laurie and Ethan. I will give the movie props for killing off its most annoying characters - not usually a consideration movies give the audience. But here it’s like sweet bliss.

We do get some more idiotic dialogue though, when Ethan reveals a stunning secret: he isn’t even really Indian! And what’s more, he never worked in a call center! Well, stop the fucking presses, I say. He should be left down in that mine to die for this heinous lie.

"How DARE you lie to me about your nationality?!?"

In my imagination, the actor for this kid is friends with the guy from Life of Pi. They were childhood buddies, let's say. I like to picture those two actors meeting up again after not seeing each other for years. Maybe the conversation would go like this:

"Hey, man, what have you been up to?"

"Well, I was in a movie called Life of Pi, which got critical fame and success! What about you?"

"Uh, well...let's change the subject."

Laurie has him beat, though, when she goes on an epic temper tantrum about the fact that the ghost is down in the mine and she wants to destroy him, I guess. This is clearly an Oscar-winning performance and will go down in history as the best scene to reference when putting a plot in your movie about an angry mine ghost trying to kill annoying teenagers. This will be one for the history books.

As the rest of the film progresses, I see I was wrong about it - it has more merit to it than I ever gave it credit for. For instance, the transcendental scene where Laurie seems to get the idea she’s actually a Game of Thrones character.

"Just keep the camera there and I'll look dramatic as hell."

And hey, bats are yummy!

Ozzy would be proud.

The film blends these diverse influences together into a strange amalgamation neither too silly nor too serious - it’s right on the borderline, leaving the viewers to decide how to feel! Such ambiguity certainly deserves at least a passing nod.

The directing also becomes more and more spastic and artsy, which is clearly a choice made to accentuate the confusion and bizarre nature of our own lives as we continue to forage into adulthood. The characters are clearly representative of a larger truth. Yes, the dialogue was bad in the beginning and yes, they could be annoying, but overall it was part of a larger plan. The movie is trying to tell us that life is confusing and there are no answers. Everything we see is just a cover for something that lies beneath. There is no good or bad, just a moral gray area. The mine, clearly, is supposed to represent the darkness and turmoil of our inner souls and minds - a complex and confusing labyrinth with no way out. Just like how we are as we try to figure out what to do in real life.

This is especially demonstrated when it’s revealed the whole thing was a big prank by Brad to get back at his friends for leaving town, because I guess they were all moving on with their lives and he wasn’t. What we thought was a devilish plot by monsters in a mine was just a sad kid afraid of losing his friends:

To get this effect, they stubbed his toe.

This is just like real life. In real life we constantly fear the worst. We always think things are one way when they’re really another. We tend to not see the underlying motives behind other peoples’ actions. That’s what this movie is conveying. What a masterpiece.

And it’s even more muddied by the actual ending, where it’s revealed Brad died in the cave and everyone else is somehow at his funeral. Were they all conspiring to kill Brad the whole time? That would certainly be advisable, but it isn’t clear. Were they all possessed by the ghosts? Or did Brad just kill himself, Laurie remain possessed by the ghost, and everyone else just get out completely oblivious? There are no clear answers. Just like in real life.

Actually, no, on second thought, none of this made sense.

Happy Halloween!

Images copyright of their original owners; I own none of them.