Richard Gray’s Mine Games is a thriller in the vein of Time Crimes and (the terribly underseen) Triangle. While those films used the concept of a time loop to create clever, tightly woven plots, Mine Games never fully embellishes the idea. Once it finally begins to throw the plot into high gear, it’s too little too late. It feels like it’s simply retreading old material in a new environment. In this case, a mine where it’s impossible to see shit.
The set up is a boilerplate, but after a patient 45 minutes Mine Games begins to diverge into more interesting material. Seven friends head into the woods (groan) to stay at a remote cabin. They nearly get into a bad accident on the way there when a “yokel” jumps in front of their car. Being the shallow people they are, not one of them goes to check if they actually hit the guy with their van. They have better things to do, like drink PBR tall boys and take mushrooms. Vacation, baby!
When they get to the cabin, they find a note from the owner stating he’ll be right back. He never returns, so the kids decide to explore their woodland surroundings. They stumble across an abandoned, labyrinthine mine and begin playing mine games with each other (such a silly play on words, had to). When they finally stumble out of the mine, it quickly becomes apparent that something is seriously wrong.
I’m a sucker for time loop movies (Plus One is a fun recent example), so there were few spots in Mine Games that I dug. All of the small hints are tied together nicely during the film’s final act, which is crucial to making a cohesive time loop movie. So it has that going for it. There’s also an interesting reference to the ancient Ouroboros symbol of the snake consuming its own tail. It’s a not-so-subtle emblem referring to the time loop and the self-reflexivity that comes along with it.
One of the guys explains the symbol in the film, because everything else is spelled out for us anyway. The characters serve as depthless deliverers of exposition nearly to the point of insulting the audience. All of them, with the exception of Lyla (Briana Evigan – Sorority Row), possess zero common sense as they bicker and generally makes things much worse for themselves. It’s frustrating to sit in on their conversations.
At least they’re not all stereotypical meatheads and tramps, like we see in far, far too many films. Aside from one British guy who’s a complete douche, everyone seems kind of level-headed (albeit with no common sense). In a lot of horror films, it seems like the stable of characters would never actually hang out together in a logical world. The folks in Mine Games actually have camaraderie for one another, which goes a long way in holding my attention.
Time loops have been done better before (masterful even, in the case of Time Crimes). Mine Games wastes the perpetually interesting concept and delivers flat thrills and flaccid characters. Ultimately, it’s a dud in the otherwise exciting time travel horror genre.