Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Director Essentials: Steve Miner

by Patrick Bromley
Another great "that guy" director!

I attended Flashback Weekend in Chicago this past weekend, and in attendance was director Steve Miner, a brilliant journeyman filmmaker who has left an indelible mark on the horror genre. This was only his second convention! I was so excited to hear him speak because I'm such a huge fan of his work, from his contributions to my favorite horror franchise to his other horror films to his work on television, which is where most of his stuff is these days. Miner is more a workhorse than a stylist, but nearly all of his movies are functionally effective in a way that fewer and fewer movies are these days. I miss directors like him.

1. Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
Miner got his start as a director working on a disreputable sequel in a disreputable franchise, but those in the know recognize that he made what is arguably the very best Friday the 13th movie ever made (I think I still prefer 4, but it's subjective and I would never disagree with someone who says 2 is the best). After working as 2nd unit director on the original, Miner steps into the director's chair for the sequel and makes a movie that's tense and genuinely scary and has some of the best characters of the series -- for sure the best Final Girl in Amy Steel. The original Friday the 13th has a lot of problems, its direction being a major one. That's not the case for Part 2. Steve Miner directs the shit out of this movie.

2. Friday the 13th Part 3 (1982)
Ok, admittedly Miner took a step back with this one, but he's not really to blame. Getting the 3D right on was so technical and had such a high degree of difficulty that he couldn't focus as much on filmmaking and story. It's still a complete blast from start to finish, especially in 3D, but it's closer to what might be considered a "guilty pleasure" than the genuine excellence of Part 2.

3. House (1986)
After making a disastrous non-horror debut with 1985's Soul Man, Miner returned to his horror roots, re-teaming with producer Sean S. Cunningham for this horror comedy in which a Stephen King-like author (played by William Katt) inherits a house full of crazy shit, including (but not limited to) the ghost of his best friend who was killed in Vietnam. Working from a story by the great Fred Dekker, Miner proves adept at mixing horror and comedy, successfully launching a second horror franchise in the process.

4. Warlock (1989)
Here's a third franchise Miner started! The great Julian Sands plays the titular Warlock chased through a portal from 1691 to the present by a witch hunter (Richard E. Grant) who teams up with a modern day woman (Lori Singer) to stop his evil ways. Though mostly forgotten or dismissed as DTV trash, there is so much to like in Warlock that I have to highly recommend it, from David Twohy's script to Miner's direction to (especially) the performance of Richard E. Grant. who is so sincere and believes in the material so completely that he totally sells even some of the sillier moments.

5. Forever Young (1992)
After a detour to Disney for Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken (his daughter's favorite movie, he told the crowd at Flashback), Miner took another studio swing with what might be his most mainstream and accessible film. Mel Gibson plays a test pilot who is cryogenically frozen and woken up in 1992; Jamie Lee Curtis co-stars. Aside from the fact that it was a reasonable hit at the box office (making nearly $60 million), this is an important film in Miner's resume because it a) makes him a name outside of the horror genre, b) begins his working relationship with Jamie Lee Curtis, which will become important a few years later and c) begins his working relationship with J.J. Abrams, who wrote Forever Young and would call upon Miner to direct some episodic television later in his career.

6. My Father the Hero (1994)
Well, they can't all be perfect. Miner returned to Disney for this American remake of a 1991 French film in which Gerard Depardieu reprises his role as a dad who poses as his daughter's (Katherine Heigl) boyfriend to make the boy she likes jealous. It's as weird and creepy and French as it sounds. Miner can't really be blamed for this one because the material just doesn't translate. He makes sure the scenery looks great, but just doesn't demonstrate a flair for farce.

7. Halloween: H20 (1998)
I can't think of too many directors who worked in as many horror franchises as Steve Miner -- especially two of the three biggest. He reteamed with Jamie Lee Curtis, bringing her back to the franchise for the first time in more than 15 years for an entry that attempts to get back to kind of slick, stylish suspense that made the John Carpenter original so special. The results are a little mixed, but I admire the effort. I still feel like this is a better version of the kind of survivor PTSD stories told in movies like Scream 4 and Halloween (2018). The only horror movie that does it better is Rob Zombie's Halloween II. Come at me.

8. Lake Placid (1999)
Steve Miner has only made a few features in the 2000s, primarily working in television for the last two decades. Most of his films during this period probably aren't worth mentioning, like the Jessica Simpson vehicle Private Valentine: Blonde and Dangerous or the execrable Day of the Dead remake; Texas Rangers comes closest to being good and that was in 2001. At least he closed out the '90s with a banger -- a giant killer crocodile movie starring Bridget Fonda, Oliver Platt, Brendan Gleeson, and my beloved Bill Pullman. Miner once again flexes those House muscles, mixing horror and comedy effortlessly in a lean, mean 80 minutes.That's the beautiful thing about Steve Miner: he might not have a discernible style, but he always gets the job done the best way possible.


  1. An article that opens with an image from House? im down.

    House(1986) feels like a horror movie that has fallen off the general radar/discussion of horror fans these days. Not sure why. For me it was an epic early gateway flick a-la-Evil Dead 2 into creative horror/humor blending. I havent revisited for a long time and need to correct that.

    As for Halloween 3....as one obsessed with the 80s 3D craze during the craze..i had a blast with it. Managed to not only sneak in with a friend but also snag glasses (Century 1-2-3). (Editors Note: we werent so lucky on a similar mission that year...we got busted trying to sneak into Parasite 3D and had to call our folks..who laughed it off)

    Thanks Patrick for the great director list and stories from Horror Con!!!!! Im going to seek out and watch Return of the Living Dead 3 for the first time based on your tweets. I hope the panel went great.

    1. No one in my family watched horror, but I watched House 2 and The Exorcist 3 at a youth evening at our church. Scared the bejesus out of me, and I had nightmares for weeks. Haha. Put me off of horror for the next 20 years, until Fthismovie properly introduced me to it.

  2. The 3D blu ray of Friday The 13th part 3 from the box set is excellent. Every possible gimmick is mined (sorry) and it really creates a great viewing experience. It makes me lament the eventual demise of my 3DTV, which at this point has had more false alarms than Fred Sanford. It’s a long shot, but I’m hoping that the Avatar sequels can kickstart a renewed interest in the technology and maybe we’ll see the sets manufactured again.