Miner's Massacre (2003)
Starring Karen Black, John Philip Law, Richard Lynch, Vernon Wells, Martin Kove, and Jeff Conaway (All of whom have a combined screen time of about 15 minutes yet still get top billing because they're bigger names than the actors that actually star in the movie!)
Directed by John Carl Buechler
I had managed to avoid Miner's Massacre since it originally came out a year or so ago. My tolerance for crappy, low budget, DTV slasher movies is not very high; although it is currently higher than my tolerance for crappy, low budget, DTV zombie movies, a subgenre that seems to be increasing at an alarming rate. I had no interest whatsoever in watching this slasher flick about a pissed off gold miner that returns from the dead until I saw a trailer for the movie at the beginning of another of film I rented recently and couldn't help but to be suckered in by it. After the movie was over, boy, did I ever feel like a sucker.
Just as I initially feared, Miner's Massacre is yet another one of those stupid people head out into the woods where they have sex, behave stupidly, and die sort of slasher movies. The only deviation from the formula was that they all looked to be thirty-something’s. I suppose in a way it is kind of refreshing to know that it's not just stupid twenty-something’s that manage to find themselves the victims of a homicidal maniac when out in the woods. That still doesn't mean it makes for a more entertaining movie.
Some guy finds some gold in an old ghost town and mails a small nugget back to his sister or cousin or pen pal or AA sponsor or...I don't recall what she was supposed to be in relation to him. He gets killed before the opening credits anyway so it hardly matters. What matters is that whatever she is in relation to him shows the nugget to her boyfriend, the two of them call up their friends, and the next thing you know we have three sets of couples heading for this old ghost town in hopes of finding a fortune in gold.
Our main couple is the blandest, no personality whatsoever, so that means they end up being the last two remaining. This as we know is in correspondence with the laws of slasher filmdom. The other two couples consist of a yuppie scum type and his bimbo girlfriend and a really annoying greaser who looks like he could be playing the understudy for Shane on "The Shield" and his even more annoying and permanently verklempt girlfriend, who looks and sounds like an obnoxious mob wife from Goodfellas. I didn’t care if any of these people lived or died.
Unfortunately, the gold they seek is cursed and for the first time in a long time, an evil leprechaun is not involved. Nope, this time it's an evil forty-niner named Jeremiah Stone, who comes back to life dressed like the Creeper from Jeepers Creepers and wearing some of the least convincing zombie makeup I’ve seen in a while. You can easily tell that his fake beard is glued to his bluish, decomposing face. His primary weapon of choice is, what else, a pick axe.
The couples soon arrive at the ghost town where they continue to crack wise and bicker. Heck, the greasy haired guy quite literally dumps his annoying girlfriend right in front of her for a local brunette he met just minutes earlier. They also meet up with the town sheriff - John Philip Law playing the law - and there really isn't much else to his character other than being related to the local brunette, who is also quite irrelevant since she gets killed off minutes later.
They then head off to cabin where whatever the hell he is in relation to the main girl lives and find it totally ransacked. How do they react to this? Oh, he must be down in the mine. We’ll come back later. There’s stupidity and then there’s this.
So the wannabe prospectors head out into the woods at night and proceed to talk about what they'd do with their share of the gold before pairing off to have tame sex. Well, everyone pairs off except for the greaser who has nobody to pair off with since unbeknownst to him Stone has already murdered both of his girlfriends. Instead, this guy gets a sudden case of spastic colon and we get a really lame gross-out gag that goes on for far too long. I'm sure most people renting a slasher flick are really longing for a drawn out comedy scene involving a guy with serious stomach cramps struggling to take a dump in the woods. Thank you, makers of Miner's Massacre, for you have finally given us what we crave!
The evil undead forty-niner spends the first half hour of the movie just popping up at random to kill someone before finally just walking right up to their campfire and beginning the extended chase and kill scenario that comprises the last two-thirds of the movie. It was at that point that I came to the realization Miner's Massacre was another perfect example of a movie where somebody came up with a premise and they just filmed that without bothering to actually come up with a real plot or the characters to support it.
About an hour in, the movie all of a sudden reverts to a flashback sequence that feels like it should have taken place at the very beginning of the movie, especially since it comes complete with a title card telling you where and when the scene is set. This sequence again tries to reiterate how evil Stone was, which seems especially pointless because by this time since we've already seen him kill a half dozen people. Heck, by this time we've already had two different characters tell tales of what a hellish scoundrel this Jeremiah Stone was. Yeah, he’s really evil. We get it already. If the audience hasn’t figured that out by the time he uses a projectile shovel to nearly decapitate someone then no amount of flashbacks or dialogue is going to convince us otherwise.
The only bright spot in the entire movie is Richard Lynch's far too brief cameo in the early goings as a local carnie that reads off a laundry list of Stone's various crimes against humanity so ridiculously padded I kept waiting for him to add, "Used live puppies for firewood and played bocce ball with the skulls of dead orphans". Yeah, the guy was really evil. We get already, okay? Of course, since Lynch's character was actually entertaining that automatically meant he had to be killed off a few short minutes later.
Karen Black pops up looking highly embarrassed in her over-the-top role as a the local kook, and I must admit, I couldn’t help but be somewhat amused by her bad overacting. Being the town nutjob she of course knows all the answers about what the undead Jeremiah Stone is after. His gold! Duh! We've all seen at least one Leprechaun film in our life so this should be highly obvious! And, oh yeah, he’s evil! She also tells them the proper way to send Stone back to Hell.
Destroy his gold? No.
Wait for him to die of black lung? No.
Lure him down back into the mineshaft and blow him up with dynamite? Ding! Ding! Ding!
Providing that last piece of info appears to be the only justification for her character and no sooner does she provide this info, in bursts Stone to kill her off.
Oh, that flashback I mentioned a moment ago, that features multiple cameos. Vernon Wells plays the living, breathing, non-undead Jeremiah Stone. A different actor gets to run around in the bad make-up as his zombie form. Remember Bobby from "Taxi"? Jeff Conaway in unrecognizable as a priest in the scene, although I kind of doubt most people would recognize Jeff Conaway one way or another these days. I’m not 100% positive but I believe that Martin Kove also appears in the flashback as one of the people confronting Stone. I’m not 100% sure because I didn’t recognize him, but the credits listed him as playing a character named Caleb and I don’t recall a character in the movie named Caleb or anyone else that looked like Martin Kove so I’m going to just assume he was in this scene.
And despite being titled Miner’s Massacre only the last five minutes take place inside a mine. The last scene of the movie features a not in the least bit surprising twist that could potentially set up a future sequel that I’m fairly certain will never come about.
When it comes to slasher movies, Miner’s Massacre is strictly fool’s gold.
1 out of 5
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