The film, from Eddie Mensore, is about desperation and survival. On one level, the survival of miners trapped by a cave-in; on an allegorical level, the survival of a gasping coal industry and a dying Appalachian way of life.
Mine 9 features a close-knit group of veteran undergrounders – some related to each other – braving methane gas and coffin-like confines to provide for their families. Modest of budget, the film is not stocked with soot-faced Kurt Russells or Sam Elliotts. But if this isn’t a Deepwater Horizon blockbuster, the premise – workers jeopardized by exploitative, willfully unsafe conditions – is the same.
There’s also a horror-film aesthetic at work, amplified by the realness of the situation. Claustrophobic audience members will grip their arm rests tighter than most. One character questions the worth of wearing a crucifix pendant. As one would, working in what looks to be a hell on earth.
Eddie Mensore has not made a masterpiece of the genre, but there’s a poignancy to his gritty calamity tale that makes Mine 9 worth watching.