Directed by Steven Sheil
Distributed by Entertainment One
Director Steven Sheil takes a surprisingly grand departure from the style of his distinctly British home-grown shocker Mum & Dad (review here) with the HBO Asia-financed Dead Mine. Trading grim squalor-laden townhouses for the picturesque jungles of Indonesia (alongside the aforementioned facility and accompanying tunnels), Sheil sends us on horror themed action adventure with a group of plucky mercenaries and their corporate sponsor as they delve into a mysterious World War II-era Japanese bunker in search of the legendary Yamashita’s Gold.
Unfortunately for them, it seems the bunker was a little more than a storage facility — in fact, the infamous Unit 731 utilised the place as a base for genetic experiments in their quest to create the ultimate Allies-trouncing army of super soldiers. As per convention in any flick of this sort, this of course means that the bunker is, shall we say, somewhat occupied. Coming under fire from mysterious assailants at the entrance to the bunker, our group quickly find themselves sealed in by an explosion and destined to discover the horrors within.
While the plot itself is nothing new amongst the myriad of various “trapped underground with monsters” flicks, Dead Mine does have plenty of factors firmly on its side. The characters are sufficiently varied, with the gung-ho mercenary group remaining simplistically endearing and never antagonistic to audience sympathy, while Les Loveday’s rich-boy Price has just the right amount of fortune-backed smarm and fish out of water vulnerability. Actress Miki Mizuno struggles occasionally with English pronunciation but does a swell job nonetheless with her turn as historian Rie while co-star Sam Hazeldine does his best to make his rather generic world-weary ex-serviceman feel more rounded than the archetypical characterisation permits.
Crisp lensing and some impressive lighting bolster Dead Mine with a definite touch of visual class, with some similarly striking sets and staging to be found amongst the few action sequences. The naturally beautiful outdoor locations also manage to add a degree of production value on their own, making Dead Mine a remarkable step up from Sheil’s dismal previous feature. Regrettably, all of this just isn’t backed up sufficiently by the narrative, which finds itself cursed with one of the worst things that could possibly happen to it: an ending so unfathomably truncated that it will have you yelling at the screen in utter disgust.
It comes as no surprise to anyone who has viewed the above trailer for Dead Mine that the showpiece here is the awakening of the zombified Imperial Guard — Samurai warriors clad in full body armour, wielding razor-sharp swords and the skills to use them. Once this happens, the film almost manages to kick into high gear as the carnage begins in earnest and the necessity for quick escape becomes ever more pressing for our core group. Things quickly become dire as the stomping behemoths close in on the remaining treasure-seekers, and just as the climactic battle is sure to begin… Dead Mine ends. It’s over. Fin.
Not just over, either, but leaving multiple pieces of setup and plot threads — not to mention even a notion of the fate of at least one leading character — completely unresolved. It’s a feature-length setup to an epic fight for survival that never occurs. And it’s a damned shame because this utter lack of payoff takes Dead Mine from an easy recommendation down to a begrudgingly average experience.
Entertainment One’s UK DVD release sports some fun behind-the-scenes footage alongside a few extended/deleted scenes and interviews with various cast and crew (frustratingly stretched out by the presentation of each question on a title card between video of the answers) which are pretty hit and miss… and noticeably lacking the inclusion of director Steven Sheil himself.
• Interviews with the Cast and Crew
• Behind the Scenes
• Deleted Scenes
2 1/2 out of 5
2 1/2 out of 5