Horror Icon Mini-Marathon: STEVE MINER
Director Steve Miner has had more than an interesting directing career; he has had several interesting directing careers within the span of a single artist’s lifetime.
His career began with a working relationship with Sean S. Cunningham, working as a production assistant and editor on Wes Craven’s “Last House On the Left”. When Cunningham backed away from the intensity of that film and decided to produce thrillers like “Case of the Full Moon Murders” and family films like “Manny’s Orphans” and “Here Come the Tigers”, Miner went with him and worked variously as editor, producer, and second unit director.
But it wasn’t long before horror come knocking again, in the form of “Friday the 13th” (which ironically reteamed Cunningham and Miner with the writer of the previous family films, Victor Miller). Miner produced the first one and directed the second and third.
After a few other low-budget entries in the horror genre, it was a C. Thomas Howell comedy called “Soul Man” that pushed the direction of his career for the next decade, working in family-friendly comedies and dramas such as “Forever Young”, “My Father the Hero”, and “Big Bully”. He popped back into the horror genre occasionally with films like “Lake Placid” and the remake of “Day of the Dead”, but his upcoming career resurgence was as far from horror as you could get.
As the director of sixteen episodes of the ABC Family series “Switched at Birth” and several episodes of “Make It or Break It”, Miner found new success as a television director working in intelligent dramas for the family (returning to the kind of work he was doing with Cunningham in “Manny’s Orphans”).
But even aside from the “Friday the 13th” series, Miner has been able to leave a mark on the horror film world with a few entries from the 1980’s and 1990’s, including one franchise re-launch that deserves to be remembered fondly.
A writing collaboration from Ethan Wiley and “Monster Squad” director Fred Dekker, “House” is the rare horror-comedy that does both well. Starring William Katt of “Greatest American Hero” fame, the story follows a writer reeling from the disappearance of his son while writing a book about his experiences in Vietnam. Sound like a comedy? Somehow, Miner’s deft touch with the physical absurdity of the premise balances the fun of the action with the darkness of the subject matter. The beginning of a strange and often unconnected franchise, “House” is a gem of mid-80’s genre-mixing experimentation.
With a script by David Twohy (the writer-director of the “Pitch Black” franchise and the Oscar-winning “The Fugitive”) and starring stalwart Brits Julian Sands and Richard E. Grant, “Warlock” is an unusual film that is not a success but not entirely a failure. Following a warlock who is pursued through time by a witch-hunter to 20th century Los Angeles (a plot that would also fail two years later in “Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time”), the story has some interesting elements, but will be remembered mostly for Sands’ portrayal of the Warlock, and for being the movie that set up “Warlock: The Armageddon”, a schlocky fun sequel from director Anthony Hickox.
In the wake of “Scream”, there was renewed interest in the slasher franchise, and “Scream” writer Kevin Williamson brought the Holy Grail of slashers to theaters by getting the original scream queen to return to her roots: Jamie Lee Curtis was returning to the world of Michael Myers. Unable to woo John Carpenter back to the franchise for less than $10 million, Dimension brought in Miner, perhaps because of his success on the “Friday the 13th” series, which was created as a reaction to the success of the original “Halloween” (and possibly because he had recently worked with Curtis in “Forever Young”). Though nothing could match the intensity and surprise of the original film, most fans of the series would say that H2O was the last breath of skill and quality the series ever saw in its original incarnation, and was possibly the second or third best entry in the entire franchise.