Miner’s Massacre (2002) – Slasher HORROR MOVIE REVIEW

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By Geno McGahee

It’s hard to believe it’s been 15 years since the release of MINER’S MASSACRE and I look back with fond memories of going into the video store and renting it. Damn this streaming that has taken over the world. I don’t think I appreciated the horror films that came out around this time, from 2000-2005ish, but I do now, which is why I elected to watch and review MINER’S MASSACRE. I walk away with mixed feelings concerning this film, but the good outweighs the bad and we have a somewhat memorable killing force in this lower budgeted horror flick.

We begin with some very bad CGI intros to the film, but this is 2002 and CGI was a new toy that all horror filmmakers were playing with. So they get a pass here, but it was certainly shitty stuff. We then go into the small cabin where Jerry (Shadrach Smith) is looking at the gold that he had discovered. That treasure has brought on the curse of the 49’er and now the crazed miner (Vernon Wells) has begun his killing spree. Had it just been Jerry, the film would have been really short. Probably 5 minutes, but Jerry was able to mail his sister, Claire (Carrie Bradac) a piece of gold and a treasure map. As she looks through the package, her husband, Nick (Sean Hines), gives her this weird look with his tongue hanging half out. I guess the look he was going for was creepy seductive and he nailed it.

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The treasure map leads to an adventure where Claire and Nick invite their best of friends. Axl (Stephen Wastell) and his super bitch girlfriend, Tori (Sangie), are driving a beat up car to the ghost town to meet up with their friends and what a strange couple they are. Axl is put into this film for comic relief but there is far too much of it. I understand why they did it. SCREAM and other films that were still on everyone’s mind had characters like Axl, but this one was very annoying and it sucks because when the film starts to intensify, Wastell shows that he can act and does a good job at balancing the humor and drama. Unfortunately, up to that point, he’s just making jokes and overacting incredibly bad and I’m a huge fan of overacting, but this was even beyond my comfort level.

Tori’s character had zero depth at all and the relationship was unbelievable. She was put in there to hate and to get the audience to wish for her death, but she just didn’t feel genuine. The entire time on the screen, she is tearing into Axl, over just about everything. She yells at him and storms away…and repeat. When Tori and Axl meet up with Old Man Prichard (Richard Lynch) and he begins telling the two crazy kids to avoid the area because of that “weasel, son of a bitch, scum sucking pig” miner out there. Lynch is a great actor and added some credibility with his horror roots in BAD DREAMS. Although his role is small in this, he delivered very well and had a great line when he said: “What’s that saying? He’d rip your head off and shit down your neck. He invented that.” Rather impressive that the miner came up with that line. I’ve heard it often. My grandmother used to scream it during Wheel of Fortune.

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Like most horror movies, the warnings are ignored, but the miner decides to kill poor old man Prichard. Why? He had none of his gold, I don’t think. He was minding his own business. He apparently lived there forever and the miner left him alone. I wonder if he overheard the whole “weasel, son of a bitch” talk and just had enough. The miner doesn’t want people talking shit behind his back. It’s understandable.

The next couple we meet is Rox Ann (Elina Madison) and her strange boyfriend, Hade (Rick Majeske). What is with the pairing in this film? All Hade cares about is money and pussy, but seems to offer very little, but Rox Ann still finds him awesome? No way. The two are running late for the meeting because they are making out. When they show up, Nick is pissed. Sean Hines does a great job with facial expressions. When he is pissed, you know it. His overreactions are even more awesome as the film goes on.

The group is now in a ghost town and Tori starts flipping out on Axl because he lost his watch. She storms away and into a saloon as he looks for it. What the fuck is her problem? She is jumping down his throat every two seconds. If you don’t like the guy, dump the prick, but don’t keep on beating the guy up. While inside the saloon, the group hears her scream and they run over, along with a new friend, Eve (Alexandra Ford), that just so happened to show up and took an immediate liking to Axl. When they run in there, they find Tori screaming like she’s being murdered, only to find out that a bunch of birds scared her. That was just a strange scene. I know horror films have this thing where they want you to think somebody is being killed and they’re not, but they could have thought this one out a little more. Tori, of course, finds another reason to yell at Axl, because of Eve’s presence.

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Sheriff Murphy (John Phillip Law) walks into the bar and Tori is really turned on by him. So weird. He’s in his sixties! I think she just has bad taste in men and that’s why she is miserable. Axl wasn’t right for her, but she’s sticking it out. Now that Axl has turned his attention to Eve, she is planning on banging the sheriff. Tori must have had a terrible childhood to act in such a fashion. To the Sheriff’s credit, he didn’t make a move, but I don’t know what team he’s playing for either. I don’t want to give him too much credit.

As expected, Tori gets mad again, but this time she speeds off in Axl’s car and we have the first to die in the group at the hands of crazy 49’er. I’m not sure if he whispered something to her about ripping off her head and shitting down her neck or not. I hope he did. If he didn’t, I’m going to make believe he did and there’s nothing any of you haters can do to stop me.

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When Eve finds out that the group is there for gold, she takes off and leaves them to camp. She runs home to her Aunt Nelly (Karen Black) and this is where this film really gets over the top. Black’s performance is so unbelievable that it takes you out of the movie. Her bad accent and delivery take away from the momentum the film was starting to have. Ford was doing a great job of mixing the naïve country girl with the dramatic deliveries and it just didn’t balance out well in the scenes with her and Black. Eve eventually runs out of the house to help the group and Nelly runs after her, losing her in the process, but knocking on the door of Caleb, played by Martin Kove. There is no doubt that they filled this movie with some notable actors and Kove’s very small role in this is incredibly amusing. He’s got a super hot, young girlfriend, Bertie (Skye Myers), and is not against PDAs (public displays of affection). He licks her forehead right in front of poor Nelly, who probably hasn’t gotten any for years. Caleb invites her in to use the phone and that’s the last we see of Caleb. It had to be a one day shoot. They couldn’t afford to use him anymore, but his performance was amusing enough. They got their money’s worth.

(Spoiler) The miner catches up with poor Eve. I feel really bad for Eve. She was a good character and she was killed off rather quickly. Damn that miner. He did find her at Prichard’s house and may have thought that she was one of Prichard’s friends that was insulting him behind his back. Let them talk miner. They hate you cuz they ain’t you.

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The group finds the gold and plans to get out of there in the morning, but they have really pissed off the miner now. I think the miner would have killed them no matter what, but now that they have his gold, it was definitely on. Hade, for some reason, starts accusing everyone of trying to kill him and steal his portion of the gold, including Rox Ann, who notes “I thought I knew you.” He responds with a “screw you,” making me think that this kind of prick would have been better matched with Tori. Anyway, Hade takes off but doesn’t get far (Spoiler) as the miner jumps on his car and forces him to crash and die, but not before he escapes the burning car, fully engulfed in flames. I had hope for Hade at first, until the car blew up behind him and launched him. I have to give this movie credit. He could have died in the car and nobody would have said anything, but they went the extra two miles, by having him get out while on fire and then having the car blow up, launching him a good ten feet in the air. Good show…good show.

Rox Ann is killed in her escape, making it three people killed in vehicles or around vehicles. Tori was ran into a tree, Hade was ran into another car and Rox Ann was killed when the miner threw a shovel through the windshield, cutting through her neck. This film is consistent. If they think something works, they stay with it as they do with the fiery deaths. Nelly finds the survivors and brings them to her home and tells the story about the curse of the 49’er and Black’s delivery is a little better here…not great, but I give major props for the flashback scenes. The miner is awesome as he torments the crowd and holds Reverend Sutter’s (Jeff Conaway) daughter with a pickaxe to her throat. After he kills her, the crowd opens fire on him and he vows revenge. Conaway’s reaction to his daughter’s death in this was so awesome. He just stands there with the most pained reaction and his mouth wide open. It is hilarious and I give him a 10/10 for his acting in this. Good job Kenickie.

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The miner breaks into the house and burns Nelly to death, making her the second person to be lit on fire in this, but not the last. The group decides to blow up the mine and hopefully kill the miner in the process, returning all the gold as well, leading to a final showdown between Axl, Nick, Claire and the miner and leading to the miner being lit on fire via flare gun. Claire points and says “hey asshole, go to hell” and ignites the miner. Axl tackles him into the dynamite and we lose Axl, right when he was becoming tolerable. We get an awesome ending and the hope for a sequel that was never to be.

MINER’S MASSACRE needed to focus more on horror and use the comedy sparingly. Wastell could act, but he was forced into this over the top Shaggy from Scooby Doo sort of role for 75% of the film. The dialogue was pretty shitty at times, but it had its moments that were quite compelling. Elina Madison and Alexandra Ford were the standouts in this one, playing the roles very well and very genuinely and that was probably tough considering who they were acting across from. It’s not that the actors were necessarily bad, but they were overplaying the roles too much.

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I really liked MINER’S MASSACRE, but it misses the mark in several areas. Had they gone back and really gone over the story and execution a little more, it could have been a big standout at the time and more memorable 15 years later. I’m not sure where you can see MINER’S MASSACRE now. I rented it from Hollywood Video and you probably won’t find one of those opening back up any time soon.

Rating: 7/10