With such a great time travel horror thriller narrative that was advertised, Mine Games sadly comes off as nothing more than a poorly rehashed version of the masterful film Time Crimes or even Australian produced Triangle before it. The loop of time creates such a wonderfully twisted premise that could result in any exciting plot but it is underutilised and is thus a wasted opportunity. Kudos to the film for tying up every little intricacy and using the fascinating myth of Ouroboros the snake who eats its own tail in a sycophantic torturous loop-like fashion, but unfortunately this excellent idea translates poorly on screen.
The protagonists are one dimensional and exposition machines, constantly reiterating where the narrative is at and the situations that have occurred. They even vocalise their feelings, and come off as stilted and reactive to what is happening as opposed to proactive and reliant on their relationships; what good cause do they really have to turn on each other so unbelievably quickly? This is all enforced by the medium in their group, the incredibly hokey Rose (Rebecca Da Costa) who gives an extremely over-the-top performance as a doomsayer. Lyla (the lovely and underutilised Briana Evigan) is merely a soundboard for Michael's madness but she also comes off as the most naturalistic and more real member of this strange group of artificial characters. Do not get me started on the cheeky British lad Lex (Rafi Gavron) who lacks common sense and exists merely to push buttons. What is it with Australian horror casting cocky English folk, is it a go-to trending character for screenwriters now?
The locations in Mine Games are undeniably stunning, and adding elements of unknown horror in sunny daylight surrounded by gorgeous nature is always interesting, but the interior mine shots are extremely dire. They appear fake and unthreatening and there is a strange sense of scope that the mine is in fact quite tiny. The lighting is also atrocious and adds to the artifice, but perhaps this was the point to create this fantasy-based horror scenario, but the downside is the complete lack of atmosphere.
The twists and turns in Mine Games come too little too late and too seldom with no fanfare. It is a mess and the time travel element is handled poorly, which is a shame as the dated script really had some potential, but instead is overshadowed by every trope and cliché imaginable. The title itself does not marry well - the mind and the mine, location and mental states that never meet and miss the mark considerably.
MINE GAMES is playing at MIFF, theatrical release TBA