REVIEW: Jeff Chamberlain’s ‘Abandoned Mine’

Cavities in the earth undeniably bear a strong, sometimes irresistible attraction for mankind. Whether it is the ancient racial memory, handed down from our forefathers who once called caves their home, or simply the fascination with the unknown, mysterious parts of our world, normally hidden from sight, that draws us in, is almost impossible to determine. Whether the hole in the ground is natural or man made seems to have no bearing. When we stare into darkness, we tend to wonder what it holds, without thinking of what might stare back at us. In Jeff Chamberlain’s ‘Abandoned Mine’, five school friends seek adventure on Halloween night in an abandoned haunted mine, only to find to their horror that the ghostly rumors may be true as they fight for survival. Expecting a plot similar to Neil Marshall’s ‘The Descent’, were pleasantly disappointed.

It has become an almost routine marketing exercise, which sadly also takes hold in the media, to describe new independent films, not exclusively but increasingly, as Successful Film A meets Successful Film B, creating unjust expectations in the potential audience. We have occasionally been guilty of that, too. It would be easy to say that Jeff Chamberlain’s new horror feature ‘Abandoned Mine’, which will be released tomorrow, August 15, is best characterized by ‘The Descent’ meets… Wait, once we have said it, you’ll have it in your head. The film deserves more than that.

Five small-town school friends celebrate Halloween with an overnight adventure into the legendary Jarvis Mine, now abandoned and said to be haunted. Local legend tells of the angry spirits that have occupied the mine since a family was murdered for still mysterious reasons exactly 100 years ago. But that doesn’t stop the young adrenaline junkies from exploring the unknown and bringing mini-cameras to capture their every move. Yet once deep into the mine their best-laid Halloween plans go awry, leaving the adventurers trapped without escape. Are their misfortunes purely accidental or is the legend true and something more lurks in the darkness?

What reads like a rather straight forward plot for a “trapped in a cave with a monster” story turns out to be anything but that. Jeff Chamberlain and co-author Scott Woldman manage to throw enough twists and turns into the story to make your head spin at just the right pace. While you will be guessing to the very end, you will, although, not be losing your balance. The century old backstory of the mine is well developed and flows seamlessly into the film, both visually and narratively. The main characters are real, believable human beings with all the right quirks and qualities, avoiding teenage-horror stereotypes for the most part. Without giving away too much, human nature plays a key part in the unfolding of the multilayered plot of ‘Abandoned Mine’. Like in real life, everyone has a different idea of a good time, and plans never turn out exactly the way they were initially envisioned.

‘Abandoned Mine’ is well lensed by Brian Sullivan, creating an authentic feel of claustrophobia, threat and fear in the underground setting, complimented by Michael R. Fox and Steve Haugen’s work, who edited the film. The entire cast delivers convincing performances throughout and make their characters truly come to life, which is at the same time a compliment to authors Jeff Chamberlain and Scott Woldman.

Don’t be fooled by the film’s PG-13 rating from the MPAA for violence and some scary images, ‘Abandoned Mine’ delivers true fear thanks to a good story, focused directing and believable characters without relying on R-rated scenes or disgusting or explicit imagery. While the whole family will enjoy the film, horror fans will love it.

Written and directed by Jeff Chamberlain, and starring Alexa Vega, Reiley McClendon, Saige Thompson, Charan Prabhakar, Adam Hendershott, and Valerie C. Walker, ‘Abandoned Mine’ will be screening in select cites across the USA on August 15, 2013, to celebrate the national VOD release. For a complete list of cities and showtimes, go to the Official Website.

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