Whenever you put I film on, there’s always a number of reassurances that provide me with an element of comfort that I won’t be wasting my time. Admittedly this concept was tested somewhat with ‘Dead Mine’. First up, it’s a movie by Steven Sheil. Have you seen ‘Mum & Dad’ ? If not, stop reading and go directly to your local video store to rent it. Secondly, the first thing to appear on-screen was ‘An HBO Asia Original’. HBO is synonymous with quality so I was hoping this little DTV movie could be a hidden gem.
We begin in the Indonesian jungle in a pre-credits sequence that sees a member of an expedition fall through the ground to his death, hinting at something sinister deep with the vegetation. Post-credits we join a treasure hunting expedition lead by the arrogant Price (Les Loveday), the son of a CEO who has aspirations to be a modern day Allan Quatermain. More down to earth however is Stanley (Sam Hazeldine), an engineer assigned to the expedition to offer an element of expertise. Also travelling are Price’s girlfriend Su-Ling, researcher Rie and four Imperial guards for everyone’s protection.
It seems the mission is going to plan when early on they discover what appears to be a former Japanese military bunker. As they begin to set up camp though, they find themselves being fired upon and the only place to run for cover is into the deserted mine / bunker. Just as they all get inside, a grenade is detonated close to the entrance causing it to be blocked and trapping everyone inside. At this point Price comes clean as to why this place could is so sought after, and proceeds to let Rie explain the legend of Yamashita’s treasure – which if true could be the biggest treasure haul in over a century.
As they progress deeper inside the mine, they are all filled with the sensation that ‘something’ is with them, and the more time they spend together, the more cracks begin to appear within the group. It’s not long before the eagerness of Price leads to a split. For Stanley and Rie though, they insist on staying behind to cater for the soldier injured by the blast, leaving the others to go searching into the unknown.
Essentially ‘Dead Mine’ evolves into a kind of underground ‘Outpost’. Despite its great sets and professional make-up, as well as it being very nicely shot it never quite reaches the heights that you wish for. I think this primarily lies with the contentious ending. I’m a great advocate of ambiguity in cinema, but here it’s more a case of the frustration at a lack of an ending rather than one with which at least leaves you something to ponder.