The Haunting of Hell Hole Mine Poster

The Haunting of Hell Hole Mine (2023) Review

With a cast headlined by the late Tom Sizemore (Breakout, Saving Private Ryan) and Tom ‘Tiny’ Lister (No Holds Barred, Slasher Party) The Haunting of Hell Hole Mine feels like the film itself is haunted. And like many hauntings, there’s probably an interesting story attached to it, as attested to by a 2006 short, The Hell Hole Mine, with several of the same cast and crew along with release announcements and a cancelled Kickstarted from 2020, the year of Lister’s death.

But as also tends to be the case with hauntings, details are scarce, although we can speculate about a lack of funds for post-production and renewed interest after Sizemore passed away. In the end, we just have to go with what we see. And what we see starts in 1877 as a group of miners including Martin (Tom ‘Tiny’ Lister) and Eddie (Matt McHugh, Dark Cupid, The Bible Thumper and the Bruja) working the title mine and encountering strange happenings.

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In the present Poni’s (May Myat Noe, Invincible, Yuri) uncle has died, leaving her family some memorabilia and the deed to a mine, yes The Hell Hole Mine. Almost immediately, she begins having hallucinations and acting strangely. Her doctor (Sally Kirkland, 80 for Brady, Trash Fire) says it’s schizophrenia which runs in the family. Others believe it’s a curse related to the mine that’s stalked the family for generations. Believing she can be helped, her Uncle Luke (Paul Collett, The Shadows, Shark Island) looks for a way to pay for the experimental treatment he thinks will save her. Luckily for him, he’s just inherited a gold mine, and everyone knows curses are just superstitious garbage, right?

As well as starring, Collet co-wrote The Haunting of Hell Hole Mine with Robbie Trujillo and co-directed it with Tammy Massa (Technicolour Llama, The Tar Pit). The filmmakers start it off with the expository flashback, so the viewer isn’t totally lost. That’s needed because it very quickly becomes unclear just what is real and what Poni is hallucinating, with the cause of those hallucinations a further mystery.

The Haunting of Hell Hole Mine only gets more confusing after she’s institutionalized in what looks like a prison, pushing Luke, Roscoe (Tom Sizemore) and Dawn (Tori Lane Ross, On the Line, Yellow Polka Dot) to try their luck working the mine. This leads to cutting between plotlines and more people having hallucinations, or possibly seeing ghosts.  We do get to meet a waitress (Revell Carpenter, Glass Cabin, Follower) and Sagebrush (Rudy Youngblood, Apocalypto, Hell on the Border) a drunken Native artist who, between them, provide some needed backstory.

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At an hour and forty-seven minutes, The Haunting of Hell Hole Mine runs a bit long and is fairly hit-and-miss. The plot never really gels and at times feels like two separate stories that weren’t fully integrated as it goes from a curse involving a skinwalker to scenes with multiple ghostly miners. It’s never actually boring and does deliver some jumps, but it doesn’t hang together well either.

Cinematographer Yan Frame (Renegades, English Dogs in Bangkok) does what he can to add atmosphere to the night scenes and those shot in the mine. The mine scenes lose a lot of effectiveness every time you get a good look at the obviously plastic walls, however. The score by Michael Sean Colin (Killjoy’s Psycho Circus, Bio Slime) is generic except for an unsettling whistling version of Oh! Susanna.

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The film’s few effects are simple but effective. Unfortunately, the fight between Luke and Roscoe is anything but effective, with several very obviously pulled punches and faked reactions. It may be a good thing that stunt coordinator Brandon Sean Pearson has moved on to working as an assistant director on films like American Murderer and The Canyonlands which, like The Haunting of Hell Hole Mine, features a gold mine and lethal ghosts.

The result is a film that isn’t really good, but isn’t entirely worthless either. If you’re looking for a horror film set in a mine, and you’ve seen everything else, including My Bloody Valentine, The Boogens, The Strangeness and Curse of the Forty-Niner, then The Haunting of Hell Hole Mine could be with a watch. Just don’t expect to discover an overlooked nugget of genre gold.

The Haunting of Hell Hole Mine will debut on Digital Platforms on May 18th from Film Hub and Victory of the People Productions. If you’re looking for more films in a similar vein, FilmTagger can offer some suggestions.

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