Friday, February 19, 2016

In short: The Cave (2005)

An archaeologist hires the cave diving expert team of Jack McAllister (Cole Hauser) to help him explore a cave system that was sealed up under a church somewhere in Eastern Europe (the film was shot in Romania and Mexico, apparently). The team includes characters played by Morris Chestnut, Eddie Cibrian, Piper Perabo and others, while the scientific side adds Dr Kathryn Jennings (Lena Headey) and cinematographer Alex Kim (Daniel Dae Kim).

Of course, the cave system had been sealed up for a reason (having to do with the truth behind a legend concerning Templars fighting winged demons), and so the expedition members soon find themselves with quite a few problems: there’s rather active and increasingly monstrous fauna down there, and an early death seals up out heroes’ way back outside. And, to put insult to injury, our guys only have enough supplies to last them until exactly the point when someone might start looking for them. The planning of dangerous expeditions is more difficult than you’d think.

So there’s nothing to it, our heroes have to find a different way out.

When it came out, Bruce Hunt’s The Cave quickly got a reputation of being the stupid person’s The Descent but I don’t think that’s fair, for it never actually tries to copy that great film very much. Unless every horror film with monsters taking place in a cave system must be called a rip-off of The Descent, but that’s an assumption I’d call neither fair nor helpful in actually looking at a film.

It is pretty clear right from the start that The Cave isn’t at all interested in the psychological depth of the film I’ll be ceasing to mention any sentence soon now, nor has is any feminist ideas in its head (if it indeed has a head containing ideas beyond “monsters cool”). This is very much a creature feature with a big dollop of adventure movie tropes added in, and it is neither ashamed of that, nor is it trying to be anything more meaningful.

And as such, I actually think the film is rather successful. Sure, Hunt may sometimes overdo the shaky camera stuff, the film completely wastes Lena Headey (who is still game), and some of the monsters don’t look all that great. On the other hand, the film is rather well paced, goes through its series of well-worn plot beats with conviction and verve (which is the way to go when you’re not trying to subvert them, I’m convinced), and features at least three tightly staged, cleverly imagined and pretty damned unbelievable in the best possible way action set-pieces in its final third. I’m particularly fond of the one concerning a horrible creature, Perabo (and her stunt double) and some frightful rock climbing action, a scene that’s as good an action scene as you’ll find anywhere, ending in a perfect downbeat moment I didn’t think the film had in it.

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