I can think of no better demon-hunting dream team than a human who makes bad decisions with ouija boards, the demon entity she summons, and said demon’s perpetually annoyed psychic friend.
When a seance goes awry, Rob finds herself stuck with Azrael, a hilarious wise cracking entity from a realm beyond our own. Azrael and Rob, along with Azrael’s former partner, Lydia, form an unlikely trio that must work together to correct a terrible imbalance that has been wrought upon our world.
Like many poor decisions with the occult, Minefire opens with Rob, played by Julia Schifini, seeking their father’s spirit, driving away her fiancée, and accidentally unleashing the demon Azrael, played by James Oliva. In setting the tone, creator Paul Miscavage could do no better than casting Oliva as the demon. Within the first few minutes of Azrael’s entrance, Oliva already has me in stitches, because his character lives in this sarcastic, over-the-top comedic universe, whereas Rob is still stuck in the universe where everything is serious and dramatic. It makes for an excellent butting of heads and worldviews. Rounding out this cast is Tanja Milojevic, a vocal chameleon who I’m always excited to see in any project, playing Lydia the medium, and a dynamic character who relaxes into herself the deeper into the episodes we go.
Mood is an important part of anything living in this realm of comedy and horror and Miscavage has picked a great location for a weird, supernatural story. Picture an abandoned town, where a long street simmers from cracked pavement, like an earthquake had rumbled through, and releases hot steam and poisonous gases. Below that street is a coal seam, and it’s on fire and has been since at least the 60s. The Centralia Mine Fire is a ghost town, rife with urban legends and spooky myths, and this setting effectively deals its opening hand in these first two episodes to be the backbone for the horror in this comedy-horror podcast. Just slightly cheesy when necessary — an excessively Satanic ritual draws a smile even in a moment of tension — the atmosphere of Minefire is brought home by streamlined sound design and a cohesive chemistry in the characters.
What I love about Minefire is the style and execution of its comedy. While the cast’s chemistry and talent has enabled them to easily pin down delivery and comedic timing, Miscavage backs them up by providing illustrative, clear sound design. This results in a kind of situational humor one would expect more from the visual medium, and it works as it is, blended with the sarcasm and melodrama of Azrael and the deadpan snark of Lydia. I’m still laughing thinking about a demon trapped as a disembodied voice trying to raise his volume in a car and ending up rolling down the windows. It can be difficult to pace sound design and dialogue in audio so that all of the movements are clear enough for the landing to stick, but Minefire does it.
Miscavage has a gift for gab, and coupled with his cast who have the gift for comedic timing, Minefire’s opening episodes are just the right amount of laugh riot, simmering secrets, and plot hooks to keep listeners coming back for when the dream team goes on the road. I keep coming back to early Supernatural when I think of Minefire’s debut episodes; a sardonic, jesting tone, a serious undertone, and the set-up for an semi-episodic adventure where they’re probably going to be fighting over how to handle what’s to come. Here is where it could get tricky for Minefire, in balancing the feel of episodic comedy with the seed they have planted for an strong, central A plot. It’s not yet clear what exactly has happened, what this terrible imbalance is, nor how it affects our heroes, which means Minefire’s debut episodes rely heavily on listeners becoming attached to the characters to keep listening and find out what’s happening. Luckily, I think Azrael, Rob, and Lydia will be able to do just that.