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.