Reviews: Harrowing disaster thriller ‘Mine 9’; Scott Adkins in ‘Abduction’; and more
Writer-director Eddie Mensore’s impressively lean disaster movie “Mine 9” uses darkness and dissonance like a weapon. Almost the entirety of this 80-minute nail-biter is set in a rickety Appalachian coal mine, where the quarters are cramped, the methane levels are high, and the flickering light and ominous rumbles are part of any ordinary workday — let alone one where everything goes tragically awry.
Though not based on any specific recent or historical catastrophe, “Mine 9” is very much informed by the dangerous conditions at too many mines, worldwide. Early on, the miners and their families talk about whether they should file a formal complaint about the safety issues. The general agreement is that staying mum is worth the risk: A shutdown would be worse than an explosion.
Aside from a short prologue and some slice-of-life scenes, Mensore doesn’t spend a lot of time fleshing out characters or developing a complicated plot. The miners are mostly archetypes (the rookie, the joker, the quiet leader), just distinguishable enough for the audience to know who’s who when the roof starts falling.
For most of its running time, “Mine 9” operates in survivalist thriller mode, squeezing in close on people trying to think their way out of a series of impossible jams. Mensore dedicates his scant resources to creating a visceral experience, emphasizing the lack of visibility, the gassy haze and the constant, terrifying creaks and moans underground.
To call this movie harrowing is an understatement. It’s a focused — and perhaps necessary — assault on the senses.
Running time: 1 hour, 23 minutes
Playing: Starts June 7, Ahrya Fine Arts, Beverly Hills
In-demand B-movie actor Scott Adkins brings his formidable martial arts skills to the throwback science-fiction action picture “Abduction,” playing Quinn, a discombobulated time traveler from the 1980s. When Quinn wakes up in present-day Vietnam, he immediately begins hunting the sneaky space aliens who imprisoned his daughter in the past. He’s joined by Connor (Andy On), a mercenary who also lost someone to the aliens, and the pragmatic but surprisingly sympathetic Dr. Anna Pham (Truong Ngoc Anh).
Director Ernie Barbarash and writer Mike MacLean aim for a vibe similar to John Carpenter’s classic ’80s fantasy-thriller “They Live,” only without the sly political commentary. “Abduction” is low to the ground and not too heavy, concerned more with slam-bang fight scenes than with mind-bending speculation about the true nature of reality.
Frankly, “Abduction” is nowhere near as good as the movies it’s emulating. It’s a little poky, the plot only intermittently makes sense, and the special effects look noticeably cheap. But Adkins, as always, is alternately charming and ferocious. And fans of ’80s video-store fare should appreciate Barbarash’s commitment to making something this knowingly trashy. The film is only a modest amount of fun — but fun is fun.
Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Playhouse 7, Pasadena; available June 7 on VOD
B-movie auteur Miles Doleac has yet to make a truly good movie, though he does at least try to fashion something distinctively personal out of conventional genre material. Unfortunately. while Doleac’s latest effort — the occult horror picture “Hallowed Ground” — is as offbeat as his previous films “The Hollow” and “Demons,” it’s to the point of being abrasive.
Lindsay Anne Williams and Sherri Eakin co-star as Alice and Vera, a married couple who vacation in a Deep South country house, trying to repair a relationship that’s been sputtering ever since Alice had a fling with a man, Thatcher (Jeremy Sande) — who shows up, unannounced, hoping to win her back. This bizarre love triangle ends up caught in the crossfire between a reactionary cult of bigots and a Native American tribe.
This fusion of “Southern Comfort” and “The Wicker Man” is unique. It’s also overwritten and molasses-slow, with an attitude toward its lesbian heroines that’s more leering and presumptuous than progressive. This is another memorable Doleac effort, true — but it’s more painfully awkward than daring.
Running time: 1 hour, 57 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Glendale, Glendale; available June 11 on VOD
‘The Child Remains’
A pair of superb performances — from Suzanne Clément as a traumatized pregnant journalist and from Shelley Thompson as a suspiciously solicitous B&B proprietor — can’t overcome an excess of premise in “The Child Remains,” a well-made Canadian gothic horror film that just has too much on its mind. Writer-director Michael Melski combines a haunted-house tale with a sinister conspiracy saga, nestled within a fictionalized spin on a real-life mid 20th century scandal at a Nova Scotia home for unwed mothers.
“The Child Remains” is suitably spooky, with a sickly gray cast over its story of a married couple whose professional and personal lives are in disarray even before they take a birthday/“babymoon” vacation at an inn with a sordid past. But after a while, the preponderance of creepy teases — a freaky doll, a bloody ghost, a surly handyman, a chorus of whispery voices and more — makes this feel like a supernatural thriller that can’t settle on how exactly it wants to scare the audience.
‘The Child Remains’
Running time: 1 hour, 47 minutes
Playing: Starts June 7, Laemmle Glendale, Glendale; available June 7 on VOD
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