Riding the wave of the slasher resurgence due to the Scream series from 1996 – 2000, the 2002 film Miner’s Massacre (aka: Curse of the Forty-Niner) is slightly better than a SyFy Original slasher (because the sex, blood, and bad words aren’t cut, fuzzed, and bleeped out). It’s cheesy, offers no genuine scares, and simply delivers a bunch of bratty, horny young victims. You’ve heard the plot before; a bunch of kids comes across a nice stash of gold and the original owner wants it back. However, this time it isn’t a little green man spouting one-liners in an Irish brogue. This time it’s essentially a miner zombie.
Aside from typical adolescent backwoods slasher hi-jinx, like a girl doing a striptease for her man or a dude who gets a bad case of the crappers while eating a can of beans by the campfire, this movie depends on some faces you’ve seen before for its horror validation. Apparently there’s a cameo by Jeff Conaway as a reverend. Unfortunately, despite having seen this movie several times on cable, I’ve never noticed him in it, which means I must get bored in parts and start playing fetch with my dogs.
Karen Black has a pretty big role as the crazy local lady with all the facts about how the Miner came to be. I love how she doesn’t even like horror movies in real life but she’ll do pretty much any that are thrown her way, although she smartly passed on that piece of torture porn The Devil’s Rejects that marred the legacy of the brilliant House of 1000 Corpses. Meanwhile, in this film, Karen has one extremely burly stunt double (who’s almost as big as she is) doing a scene in which she’s lit on fire…and the filmmakers don’t even try to hide the fact that the stunt double has some sort of protective mask over his face.
The naturally creepy actor Richard Lynch is super recognizable with his white hair, beady eyes, and weathered face…one of those actors they call on whenever they need a sleazy bad guy—or the devil. Martin Kove is another face you know when you see him. Butch, hairy, blond, and handsome with a nice dimpled chin, he was pretty much passed around every television show in the 70s and 80s and still looks really good—even shirtless as he is in this movie. It’s always nice to see your childhood wet dreams haven’t been hitting the ice cream (as much as you have yourself). Kove was also the bullying competition in all three original Karate Kid movies. And he sure wore an Olivia Newton-John “Physical” bandana well.
Sadly, the makers of this film gave too much screen time to these well-known faces and overlooked their could-have-been diva, the Jersey Shore bitch with attitude at the beginning of the movie. I loved this fiery redhead—she demands her boyfriend stop for a pee break somewhere, then when he pulls up to a derelict house, she says, “Not here! This is the Psycho house!” She could have carried this whole film with witty quips like that. Yet, despite her character being the only one wary of bonkers backwoods shit, she bites the dust (and tumbleweeds) first! She also happens to be involved in one almost flawless special effect that doesn’t rely on a fake head. Only one slip at the end of the effect spoils it a little.
As with most cheesy slashers, a glaring horror cliché ends Miner’s Massacre. The survivors blow that Miner away in the mine shaft just as the local sheriff pulls up. He puts them in his car and says he wants to go look around. Guess what happens next….