Some college friends go on a camping trip. Their van breaks down and they find a cabin, which they stay in. They soon discover an abandoned mine, which unlocks strange metaphysical doors.
The world did not need another “psychological thriller.” It did not need another movie about vapid youths going into the woods to party, finding only trouble. But with THE EVIL WITHIN, also known as MINE GAMES, it got one anyway. The formula’s posterity is officially safe (phew).
Does MINE GAMES breath new life into the old formula? Does it “deconstruct” those tired conventions and cliches we’re all so familiar with? Nope. It most certainly does not. But it tries, sort of.
More importantly, did Michael take his meds?
Well . . . did he?
Meet Michael, Guy, Lex, TJ, Rose, Claire, and Lyla. Michael (Joseph Cross) is the unstable one. He is mentally ill, and his girlfriend, Lyla (Briana Evigan) is constantly pestering him about taking his meds. Did you take your meds, Michael? Did you? Huh? Rose (Rebecca Da Costa) is the New Agey one. She talks to spirits. Lex (Rafi Gavron) is the drunken party animal who’s always playing scary pranks. He hears the words ‘good one’ a lot. Claire (Julianna Guill), Guy (Ehtan Peck), and TJ (Alex Meraz) are just as attractive, and in just as much trouble. Or, they WERE (more on that later).
These youths are on vacation. College is over. They’re headed out camping with an abundance of booze. Their van breaks down, though, and they find a fancy cabin to stay in. It’s not long before they wander into an abandoned mine. Inside the mine they find an ancient book called the Necr—wait . . . wrong movie. Oh yeah, they see that the image of Ouroboros, a snake eating itself, is on the wall, as are the words: ‘This is the first time.’ Probably shouldn’t be passin’ around those shroooms, dewd.
They go back to the cabin and—cue the Foreigner—head games ensue, or “mine games,” if you like. They all start to experience spooky, cosmic stuff. It’s mental—a mental haunting, you know, like Rose seeing everyone appear as a nasty-looking corpse, and Lex and TJ seeing themselves as dead bodies. Why are they having these experiences? The answer: because the writers tacked on some confusing stuff about time travel. These friends, you see, have already been here. They’re already dead! . . . Or something like that. Who really knows.
Storywise, THE EVIL WITHIN is a muddled mess. The time travel thing doesn’t add much to the story, either. Assuming no time travel were involved, would the film be any more compelling? I don’t think so. And way too much is left to subtext. Up to the point where people start hallucinating—or whatever it is they’re doing—there’s a decent build-up. Suspense. We know something bad is coming. But when it comes time for the film to explore the nature of what causes all this, it goes totally off the rails. The cause of the spookiness—the visions—is grossly underdeveloped, not to mention ludicrous. Some sort of quantum hoopdedoodle? That’s all you’ve got? And it never does explain the whole Ouroboros thing, which we’re led to believe is significant.
The characters are the same old archetypes, too, football-chuckin’ dudebros and their girlfriends, mostly, with a couple of “weird” ones thrown in to drive the story forward. They look like they came straight from Beverly Hills. Why on earthy would they be eager to explore an abandoned mine? Suspension of disbelief, I know, I know.
Cinematically, it’s more of the same: those stalking, lurking POV shots, those flashes of scary imagery with jarring noise. There’s even an overhead driving shot that looks an awful lot like the one from THE SHINING. Dialogue-wise, the film poses the question: how many ways can you possibly say, ‘What’s going on here? This is weird and freaky.’
THE EVIL WITHIN is a real yawn. It tries to be original, but is structured so—well—unoriginally that it can’t be so. It’s a hackneyed story, hard to care about, hard to get into. Confusion and apathy will abound should you put it on. Did you take your meds, Michael? Did you take your meds? Did you—NO, HE DIDN’T, OKAY?