It’s Halloween? Let’s Party in the Abandoned Mine!
Main Cast: Saige Thompson and Alex PenaVega
Director: Jeff Chamberlain
Oh boy. I don’t think this is going to turn out well for anyone.
I’ve been putting off watching Abandoned Mine for months. The premise alone was enough to make me roll my eyes (“Ghosts of a murdered family are said to haunt the abandoned Jarvis Mine, so it’s the perfect place for five school friends to spend Halloween”), knowing immediately this was going to be a cheesy slasher/ghost flick with little character development, and terrible acting on top of a first draft-script. But I also knew I would eventually see it anyway because, like it or not, I’m a horror junkie, even when it comes to the bad stuff.
And I was right, it’s a bad movie. There are a few tense scenes, and they do try to establish depth in their characters (well, a couple of them), but overall, Abandoned Mine was exactly what I anticipated.
Brad is a lifelong resident of their small country town and he knows he’s never getting out of here. His ex-girlfriend Laurie is home from school where she’s in pre-med, staying with her friend–and Brad’s new girlfriend–Sharon because Laurie’s mother has let Laurie’s stepfather back into the house and that’s a scene Laurie doesn’t need.
So on Halloween night, Brad gathers his ex-girlfriend, his current girlfriend, plus his best friend Jim, and “Ethan” an Indian foreign exchange student who had stayed with Laurie during high school, and heads to the haunted Jarvis Mine for a party. Sharon insists she’s not going to the Jarvis Mine, but Brad assures her and everyone else they’re only setting up camp outside the mine and won’t be going inside.
Of course, he couldn’t have predicted the rain that drove them inside anyway. And since they’re in now, they might as well do some exploring. But when the five discover they can’t get back the way they came, their only option then is to venture further into the mine, down to where the ghosts are said to “live”.
Abandoned Mine has all the makings of a terrible movie. The characters are clichés (Ethan being the worst cliché of the bunch) and not once in the entire movie does anyone make an actual GOOD choice. One bad decision on top of another and pretty soon they’re all at their breaking point, desperate to get topside, presumably to spend their dim lives making even more bad decisions.
The only saving grace here is a plot twist that comes in the last act and tries to undo most of what’s come before. Unfortunately, it’s too late and the down ending we knew was coming is, at this point, inevitable. But at least they tried.
The movie was written and directed by Jeff Chamberlain who is more “famous” as an actor (Pump Up the Volume, “As the World Turns”), from a story by newcomer Scott Woldman. It’s easy to see this is a first effort from both; barring that act three twist, this movie is about as by the numbers as it gets. And, again, that twist is interesting and got my attention, but ultimately it doesn’t change the outcome here.
The cast does what it can, but they’re playing so well into their types it’s hard to see past the clichés. Reiley McClendon as Brad takes great joy in playing the ex-football star whose only goal in life now is to keep the party going. Saige Thompson gives Laurie an inner strength and a dark past that has to come to the fore if she’s going to survive the nightmare she finds herself in, but she’s really the only character whose given any kind of depth.
Alexa PenaVega’s Sharon is a blank slate. I get nothing from her character, not even when she’s trying to ask her best friend if it’s cool that she’s dating her ex, Brad. She might as well have been asking if she wanted to get something to eat.
The only one to give the movie any sort of levity was Charan Prabhakar as “Ethan”, and while his character was about the most offensively stereotyped Indian character one could imagine, his interactions with the other characters was at least entertaining to watch, especially during the tensest moments when “Ethan” is scared.
I wasn’t bored by the movie, even though it was predictable, so I guess that’s a good thing. But as for whether I can recommend it or not, that’s gonna be a no. It just wasn’t anything to write home about. There was potential within the setting for some really good scares, and there were a few good shots, but overall I think the movie didn’t truly appreciate that potential, resulting in a movie I’ll forget about within a week.
C. Dennis Moore is the author of over 60 published short stories and novellas in the speculative fiction genre. Most recent appearances were in the Dark Highlands 2, What Fears Become, Dead Bait 3 and Dark Highways anthologies. His novels are Revelations, and the Angel Hill stories, The Man in the Window, The Third Floor, The Ghosts of Mertland and The Flip. He is writing another Angel Hill novel called Return to Angel Hill with co-author David Bain.