The Direct to Video Connoisseur
I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Miner's Massacre aka Curse of the Forty-Niner (2002)
This is one I've been meaning to get to for some time, especially with the prodigious list of names associated with it. You've got Hall of Famer Martin Kove, plus DTVC favorites Richard Lynch, John Phillip Law, Vernon Wells, Karen Black, and Jeff Conaway. Can this possibly be bad? Do I need to ask based on some of the stinkers we've seen on here before?
Miner's Massacre is about a girl whose brother has just found some buried treasure, and sends her a map and a sample to let her know it's legit. Little does she know that he was killed by a ghostly Vernon Wells, the demoniac incarnation of an evil 49er who guards that gold, so when she gathers up her friends to find him and his treasure, it's a collision course to wackiness.
This was a fun little horror film, though those names on the marquee are a little misleading. Let's see, Lynch has two scenes, one where he rips off one of the kids, and one right after where he's killed by Wells. That's better than Kove, who barely has one scene, and I don't believe he ever has a shot to himself. They intimated that he'd be a bigger part after he's introduced, but it never happens. Of this robust cast, Black has the biggest part, as the crazy aunt who tries to warn the kids and whatnot. Conaway has one flashback scene as a priest, which is technically Vernon Wells's only scene too (I believe someone else plays his modern, ghostly self). Then there's John Phillip Law, who plays the town sheriff, and also only has a couple scenes. I like that these actors are sprinkled in, but in some cases-- especially Kove's-- I would've liked to have seen more of them. Also, while some of the kills were good, some of the scenes with the kids where no one was getting killed could've been a lot shorter. I put this in the classic 3AM Paper Procrastination category, as opposed to something you'd go out of your way for.
Martin Kove is the film's one Hall of Famer, so we might as well start there, even though there isn't much to start. What, could they only afford him for half a' day? 15 minutes maybe? It did seem like his character was going to have more of an impact on the way the film went, but he really just disappears after that one scene. Also, weirdly enough, it's Karen Black's character who goes to him and tells him what's wrong, and he tells her to go inside his place where she's safe, while he looked like he was going to go out and get after it; only then, it's Black, not Kove, who is in the next scene with the kids, telling them about the evil 49er. Maybe there was supposed to be more Kove here-- though, on the other hand, he's an associate producer, so maybe there really wasn't.
"Let off some steam, Bennett." That's right baby, Vernon Wells. I can't tell from the imdb credits if he was just in the scene where he plays his human self, or if he played the demon too. He makes a great villain in any case, and it was fun to see him in this, even in that limited capacity. I know what you're thinking, and I totally agree, the better thing to do would've been to have him not as a 49er, but in the chain mail like he was in Commando. And Martin Kove having to take him out instead of the kids. And Richard Lynch being blown up with a rocket launcher.
Of all the one-scene cameos in this, I'd say it was Lynch's, just edging out Jeff Conaway's that I was the most fine with. Would I have wanted more Lynch? Of course, who doesn't. And when you think about it, if this were the 1990s and this were a PM Entertainment actioner, Kove, Lynch, and Wells would've been the leads, with Black, Conaway, and Law all holding down solid supporting parts. Maybe throw in Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Sam Jones, and Ernie Hudson, and you have yourself a winner.
Man, I love John Phillip Law. And if you love him too, you'll love his couple scenes as the town sheriff. That trademark voice, and creepy ear-to-ear grin, it's all there. I found myself quoting some MST3K Space Mutiny lines like "Man you look good" or "We're always laughing you and me", because he's so Calgon. But he's also more, he's quintessentially John Phillip Law, the B-Movie mainstay who brought it long before MST3K put him on the map. Here's to John Phillip Law, you were one of the good ones.
With a scant (scanty?) running time of 85 minutes, and availability on Watch Instantly, this isn't a huge investment. A pretty fun horror flick with some big names sprinkled throughout might be enough to get you to the church on time. For me, this isn't something you center a bad movie night around, it's more like something you dip into if you're dealing with a bout of insomnia, or, as I mentioned above, it's 3AM and you're procrastinating on that paper.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0325214/