Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 37 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Intense Creature Violence
Directed by: Bruce Hunt
Written by: Michael Steinberg & Tegan West
Starring: Cole Hauser, Eddie Cibrian, Marcel Iures, Lena Headey, Daniel Day Kim, Piper Perabo, Rick Ravanello, Morris Chestnut & Kieran Darcy-Smith
I remember seeing trailers and TV spots for THE CAVE. I was about 15 years old and wasn’t allowed to see R-rated movies. As you might imagine, this rule severely screwed with what kind of horror movies I could watch. By the mere fact that it was one of the few horror films that I could go watch in theaters at the time, I wanted to see THE CAVE. In the years following 2005, this creature feature has faded into well-deserved obscurity. Released coincidentally around the same time that THE DESCENT was hitting theaters in the UK, this cheap horror flick plays out like a Syfy Channel script was somehow funded with a budget of 30 million. None of those dollars necessarily appear on the screen in form of acting talent or special effects. This is every bit as clichéd of a monster movie as you’d guess it probably would be from the bland title.
A team of archeologists have discovered what could very well be the world’s largest cave system. In order to investigate it further, they’ve hired a team of skilled cave divers to explore it. Turns out that might not have been the wisest move. Due to a cave in, the group of divers and scientists soon find themselves trapped a mile beneath the earth’s surface with no exit in sight. As if things couldn’t get any worse, it turns out that this cave system is so large and evolved that it has its own ecosystem and mutated creatures. These inhabitants include a blind mole, a scary eel and a group of giant bat-like beasties with an appetite for scientists and cave divers. With the batteries on their flashlights running low and their new position on the food chain, the group of hapless victims try to make it to the surface in one piece.
Credit where credit is due, THE CAVE actually takes its time before revealing the monstrous antagonists. However, this isn’t necessarily a good thing when characters constantly need to remind us of who they are and what role they have. There is zero development put into these people. I know that they’re essentially being set up as monster food, but it’s nice to have at least a couple of folks worth rooting for in a creature feature. That’s definitely not the case here. The only character I remotely liked was Lena Headey’s scientist and that’s because she was being played by Lena Headey. While you wouldn’t necessarily expect any sort of logic to be thrown into a premise that’s this far-fetched, the cave system itself is so mind-numbingly silly that it frequently took me out of the film. It doesn’t simply stay in caves or a river running through said underground system, but these characters also travel through ice tunnels that seemingly come out of nowhere and what appeared to be a leftover set from THE MUMMY RETURNS. Aside from the silly cave system, this film is about as bland as monster flicks can be.
Though I don’t know the complete production story, but I would imagine that THE CAVE was originally rated R and then severely cut back to a PG-13. I say this because there are behind the scenes stills of creature puppets that never made it into the final cut. Nearly every scene with monsters uses silly CGI glimpses, fast cuts and lame POV shots. The monster attacks are edited to the point of sheer incoherency. I literally can’t tell you how some of these people died due to a series of quick shots and close-ups that were clearly added in post-production. I think one character was impaled as the camera seemed unnaturally focused solely on his face, while a far away shot looked a little more graphic. This is also not to mention the clearly redubbed swearing in which one person yells “They freaking fly!” or another begins saying “Come on, motherf…” and then the scene cuts completely off him. Ironically, the only reason I was excited to see this movie as a teenager was because I could get into the theater for it thanks to the PG-13 and that has turned out to be the biggest problem that I have with the film a decade later.
Every bit as generic as its title, THE CAVE plays out like a Syfy Channel movie of the week. The characters are bland. The creatures look lame when we actually are given a brief shot of them. The script is ludicrous and takes itself way too seriously. There’s a possibility of enjoyment if you watch this film with a group of friends in a so-bad-it’s-good way, but that’s highly unlikely seeing as it’s just so dull in the end. Avoid this film and just watch THE DESCENT instead.