Title card: “The following is inspired by true events. In 2013 a collapse at the Brackett Coal Mine left a group of workers trapped nearly six hundred feet underground. This is what happened . . . beneath the surface.”
That is a strangely specific and verifiable way to begin a horror film. If there ever was a Brackett Coal Mine collapse, it must have been suppressed by the government because I’m not finding it.
C’mon guys, have the courtesy to lie to us — like Fox Mulder, we want to believe; it’s OK to lie, just don’t rub our faces in it.
The film opens with search and rescue crew breaking through the rocks. They see blood on the wall, then a survivor.
Flash back to 4 days ago — Samantha Marsh is recording testimonials praising her father George on her phone. She has escaped the coal town and is now a big shot lawyer in New York. She confides in one of the locals that she is an environmental lawyer, and by the reaction, she might as well have said she puts rapists and child molesters back on the streets.
At the local bar, after her father’s farewell party, Samantha is tossing back shots with the good ol’ boys. To prove she has not lost touch with the coal miners, she offers to go subterranean with them the next day (not a sexual euphemism), thereby guaranteeing 1) a cave-in, 2) attack by strange creatures, 3) or both.
The next morning she joins dad and the crew down in the mine. The mechanical digger hits a rough patch, but the operator presses on, breaking into a cavern. Cue the predicted cave-in. Not that that’s a bad thing — it’s pretty much what you come to a mining thriller to see, as long as it is done well.
The effects are not spectacular, but they get the job done. I had never thought about the effect of the air being compressed in a cave-in, but here it blows a man across the shaft like a rag doll. Good creative stuff.
The survivors retreat into a rescue pod that can provide fresh air and water for the 72 hours it will take for them be be rescued. It isn’t long before they hear noise and go outside the pod to see if maybe one of their crew is still alive in the mine.
It is understandable that they would want to help their buddies. But it seems like they are too quick to go into fear mode — and not fear of additional cave-ins, but of something in the mine.
The story meanders a little as the miners try to survive the lack of oxygen, and the changes that their pals start experiencing. It is effective, actually giving me chills a number of times.
The performances are generally good with one exception. The always fun Jeff Fahey (Lost) is good as George, there is a nice assortment of earthy miners, and Joey Kern is good in the Corporal Hicks role. Unfortunately, Kelly Noonan is no Ellen Ripley. I just never bought her performance either above ground or below. Even the look of her character was off-putting. The braided hair just looked ridiculous on her. Also, her blindingly white smile was almost comical, especially the contrast after she gets dirtied up with coal dust.
Overall, a nice little thriller, though.
- Joey Kern also went overboard with the veneers, but it is less jarring than the fluorescent Joe Bidenesque choppers of Kelly Noonan..
- There is apparently some tension between Samantha and her Mom, but is a useless thread that is laid out and serves absolutely no purpose. It would have been better if her Mom were dead and she had the conflict with her only remaining parent.