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Dissecting The Director: Steve Miner

05.15.2012by: Marcey Papandrea

"STEVE MINER"

Steve Miner is a hard-working man, and has been since he got started in the business. While these days he mainly works on television, he’s had quite a solid film career as well. He’s the only director to ever direct more than one FRIDAY THE 13TH sequel, and even went on to do a sequel for HALLOWEEN. He’s dipped his feet in all sorts of genres, but his best known works would be from the horror genre. I also think that they’re his most fun films. He doesn’t take things too seriously, and his films have a very ‘easy going’ feel about them. This isn’t just with his genre stuff, but his other work as well. Let us get up close and personal with this awesome director…

BEST WORK


Get House on DVD here

I actually found it difficult to really pin down a film that I felt was his best work. He’s done so many awesome titles and they are so great to watch. I thought that I would pick out the film that I had the best time with and the one I felt was his strongest, which would be 1986’s HOUSE.

It might seem like an odd choice, and to be honest I only recently saw this film and I absolutely adored it. The film is in the same vein as EVIL DEAD and EVIL DEAD II, and it has all sorts of great elements that blend together to make it great. Right from the start, it sucked me in and held my interest throughout its runtime. I liked the story, and I thought that the main character was well-developed and was actually a likable regular guy. There is a real sense of human tragedy to the film, and that also helps with generating interest from the audience. And it works pretty damn well.

The story is about Roger (The Greatest American Hero’s William Katt), a horror author and Vietnam veteran. One day his life changes for the worse when his son vanishes from his aunt’s house and his marriage soon after falls apart. Things get weirder when his aunt passes away and he inherits her house, and finds out that there’s more going on than he ever could have imagined.

This is definitely one of the better haunted house/horror comedies. Everything about it just seems to work. The humor blends well with everything, is never over-stated or unwelcome, and the natural comedic timing and talent of the actors just sells it. It has its serious elements as well, and these work just as well as the humor, particularly the tragic parts, which hit pretty hard. As you can tell, the performances are also great. I really loved William Katt. He was definitely the perfect choice for Roger. He’s the star and the most memorable of the cast. It really felt like a role tailored for him. I also enjoyed George Wendt as the nosey neighbour.

If you haven’t yet seen HOUSE, I really can’t recommend it enough. It’s such good fun and a genuinely great film. It’s of course worth rewatching, and I’ll be doing that quite often from now on, now that I‘ve discovered the film. A job well done for Steve Miner, and a rather impressive one at that.

WORST WORK


Get Day of the Dead on DVD here
Get Day of the Dead on Blu-ray here

While I had a tough time choosing his best work, his worst work was a no brainer: the ‘remake’ of DAY OF THE DEAD. This is one of the worst modern horror films that I’ve ever seen. This film is bad. Really bad. And not in the good way of things like TROLL 2. No, this film is so bad it may cause your head to explode, SCANNERS style.

This film really isn’t a remake at all. I’m wondering why it’s even called DAY OF THE DEAD when it should really be called STUPIDITY OF THE DEAD. That’s actually being too kind. Now when I dissected George Romero, I stated that SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD was terrible and one of the worst, yet somehow despite how bad that was, this film makes it look like a masterpiece. Have I stated how awful this is?

DAY doesn’t even remotely feel like a Steve Miner film. The humor he likes to inject into his films is gone. This film is played ‘straight’, yet it doesn’t work at all. You can’t play something so insanely stupid this serious and expect it to work. The script is terrible. Who greenlit this? Did anyone actually read it? I really don’t think that they did, as it makes no sense and there are a lot of obvious plot holes. In fact, the film doesn’t even really feel like a zombie film. The zombies are formed by a virus, which turns them into rage-filled cannibals. While yes that worked for 28 DAYS LATER, here it’s just so silly, especially when you see someone turn at the drop of a hat and they’re already mangled up. I would have laughed at how absurd it all was, but it was just so painful to watch. While the original film tried to cover all sorts of bases, this film has no idea what it’s doing. It feels like an insult that they share the same name.

The acting here is dreadful. Was there any effort? I didn’t feel it at all, as the actors looked bored and acted that way as well. The direction felt just as bored and almost confused. If I was working off of this script, I’d have been confused too. It saddens me that this was the last thing that Miner has done up to this point. I hope that he comes back and directs again and gives us a taste of his greatness instead of this rubbish.

TRADEMARKS


Get Friday The 13th Part 2 on DVD here
Get Friday The 13th Part 2 on Blu-ray here

For me, the Steve Miner trademark is the tension that he creates and the humor he spills throughout. He’s great at both things, and can easily combine them. There is usually a seriousness and a lighter side to what he does, and he’s one of the few directors in the genre that can do this extremely well. This is also true of his non-genre work, as it works just as well. In fact, I actually really enjoyed FOREVER YOUNG, one of the films that I watched in my youth that made everything about it work despite how farfetched it was.

Miner also has a tendency to work with some top notch actors, and for the most part (I’m looking at you DAY OF THE DEAD) they give stellar performances. I think that he has great chemistry with one Jamie Lee Curtis, and it seems to be a team that brings out the best for both. He certainly comes off as very actor-friendly. Whether or not he really is I don’t know, but that’s the vibe that I get from what I’ve seen. The performances are generally very natural and entertaining.

HIDDEN GEM


Get Hallowen: H20 on DVD here
Get Halloween: H20 on Blu-ray here

Now I know that my choice for this may seem odd, but having recently rewatched it, actually feels like the right choice. I decided to go with HALLOWEN: H20, a film that I enjoyed as a teenager but had written off as rubbish later on. But since then I’ve rediscovered it, and I’ve found that the film is in fact pretty damn good and still holds up well. In fact, it was a great end to the series, and I’ll keep thinking of it as such and ignore HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION.

The film was a product of the SCREAM era, where similar films were coming out left, right and center. Being a fan of HALLOWEEN, I thought that this looked like a fun sequel. When I saw it when I was 14, I loved it. It was what I wanted out of the genre back then. It felt fresh despite every other film trying to be the same thing. And it felt like a HALLOWEEN film, perhaps even more so because of the return of Jamie Lee Curtis. As time went on, my thoughts changed and I really didn’t think much of it and basically regarded it as a throwaway slasher.

Upon my rediscovery, I found that my initial thoughts and feelings were right. This was a cut above the rest. It was fun, it was tense, it was HALLOWEEN and Michael Myers was just as frightful. The young teen cast at the time were actually pretty solid, and it featured two big names at the time in Michelle Williams and Josh Hartnet. Both are actually pretty good in the film. Williams naturally shines a lot more and given her career now, it makes sense. The real star of course is Jamie Lee Curtis, who didn’t miss a beat and was fantastic. As I mentioned, there is just a great connection between actress and director and I doubt that this would have worked with someone else at the helm.

While not quite Miner’s best, the film is something that I think gets overlooked now and brushed aside, simply because it was one of the films that followed SCREAM. Definitely give this one a rewatch again, or a first time watch if you haven’t seen it. Also look out of one of the coolest cameos with Janet Leigh. A nice touch!

OVERALL


Get Lake Placid on DVD here

Despite a few little things, Steve Miner has had a pretty great career, one that is still going strong with television (something he is fantastic at), and one that can be appreciated. I know that he was a staple of my childhood and teenage years with his work, and he is certainly one of the directors that really got my interest in the genre flowing. I do owe Steve a big ‘thank you’ and I am sure many of you readers may do the same as well. He is a fun and entertaining director, worth revisiting from time to time and very ripe for new fans to discover!

Is there a director you hope to see Dissected? Feel free to send Marcey your suggestions to [email protected]

Extra Tidbit: Steve Miner has directed episodes of 'Make It Or Break It', 'Smallville', 'Dawson's Creek' and 'The Wonder Years' just to name a few.
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