When you think of dominant horror filmmakers the names Wes Craven, John Carpenter, George A. Romero, Sean Cunningham, Dario Argento, Herschell Gordon Lewis, William Castle, Roger Corman, Clive Barker, Alfred Hitchcock, David Cronenberg, and Lucio Fulci are probably among a few that spring to mind. There is an unsung director that is normally overlooked. Steven C. Miner has worked in the genre for many years and is the only filmmaker that can be tied to the titans of terror.
In 1972 Miner worked with Wes Craven and Sean Cunningham as a production assistant and as an assistant editor on Last House On The Left. This close relationship with Cunningham allowed Miner to continue working on his films. Each film added another skill to Miner’s portfolio. He was a second unit director on the soft core film Case Of The Full Moon Murders (1973). He was an editor and producer on Manny’s Orphans (1978). He was again an editor, producer, and second unit director on Here Come The Tigers (1978). Then in 1980 he was an associate producer and unit production manager on Friday The 13th.
In 1981 Miner had his directorial debut with Friday The 13th II. He introduced the world to a grown up Jason Vorhees, and in 1982 when he made part 3 he gave Jason his iconic mask. He is the only director in the Friday The 13th franchise to direct more than one entry.
In 1986 Miner created House, a supernatural horror comedy that actually features his own son. House was surreal, abstract, and sprouted a few sequels.
Steven turned to comedy for his next outing Soul Man (1986) which felt as though he was reaching for the John Hughes demographic. He then directed a few episodes of The Wonder Years before returning to horror with 1989’s Warlock.
Julian Sands, who pops up everywhere starred in Warlock and Warlock: Armageddon as the titular character. Richard E. Grant (Hudson Hawk, Withnail And I) plays the witch hunter. The warlock must be stopped before he can get the Satanic bible and presumably end the world. David Twohy (screenwriter of Critters 2, GI Jane, and Pitch Black) doesn’t reinvent the wheel with this effort but even though Warlock is formulaic it is still an enjoyable ride.
After Warlock, Miner went on to do an eclectic array of films and television shows including Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken (1991), Forever Young (1992), My Father The Hero (1994), and a few episodes of Dawson’s Creek. His work on the post-modern teen soap opera led to a friendship with the shows creator Kevin Williamson. Williamson and Craven had already worked together on Scream, so I’d like to believe that Craven had some input on helping Miner into the directors chair of Halloween H20.
The 1998 reinvention of Michael Myers has always divided fans. While we are all glad that the curse of Thorn plotline was abolished in H20, we were all saddened by the lack of any mention of Jamie Lloyd. We followed that character through three films and all Williamson or Miner would’ve had to do is add one line: “You just don’t know how much I’ve given up to protect you.” Any sort of ambiguous line in that vain would have sated furious fans. Even with audiences on the fence, H20 gives us a scene with Jamie Lee Curtis and her real life mother Janet Leigh. H20 also offers a fitting death for Michael Myers. Even though Resurrection saw a continuation of H20’s storyline, fans see it as another Halloween sequel that shouldn’t exist like Curse or Season Of The Witch.
The following year Miner released the horror comedy Lake Placid, and in category of man vs. nature films it works well. Betty White feeding a killer croc is just plain good entertainment. Miner went back to work in the TV world after Lake Placid and has mostly stayed there. He contributed to Wasteland, Felicity, Miss Match, Jake 2.0, Summerland, North Shore, Wildfire, Psych, The Ex List, Eureka, The Gates, Make It Or Break It, and Switched At Birth.
In 2001, Dawson’s Creek star James Van Der Beek still had some pull and helped get Miner to direct the highly mediocre Texas Rangers. Between different shows he was able to make Major Movie Star and a Day Of The Dead remake in 2008.
Day Of The Dead is awful. The effects are low budget CGI ridden and it lacks any of the commentary Romero is known for. The only interesting facet of Miner’s remake is that it links his resume to George. This is where we finally get to the ode.
Steven C. Miner is not a cutting edge genre filmmaker risking it all on his vision. Instead, he lurks in the shadows and rides the coattails of the greats. This does not discredit him at all; it is with admiration for the man that I point this out. There is no other director out there that can say they have helped perpetuate the myths created by the legends of horror. By working on Last House he saw the seeds that would one day sprout Freddy Krueger and Jason Vorhees. In directing Friday 2 and 3 he made Jason the icon he is today. In H20 he attempted to end a 20 year old franchise in the best possible way: by pitting Laurie Vs. Michael. Even though Day Of The Dead was not all that it could have been, it made Romero’s work popular again.
With the upcoming pilot for Final Girls, Miner will once again return to television. This time he will have Jamie Lee Curtis on board and work again on an original concept. It is my hope that Final Girls will push Steven Miner into the limelight that he has more than earned.