Too long, too hollow, and echoing with resounding failure.
There are places man was never meant to go" proclaims the poster for The Cave (dun, dun, duuuuuuunnnnnn...). Well, if that doesn't directly inject you heart with 10ccs of Abject Terror I'm not entirely sure what will. Certainly not this film for a start. "Oh Craig" you say, "you've been so negative lately". Yes, dear reader, I have, and in case you hadn't guessed The Cave (dun, dun, duuuuuuunnnnnn...) has precisely nought percent chance of rectifying my flagging faith in modern horror pictures any time soon. The premise, so much as it matters, centres on the exploits of some daring cave divers lead by the oh-so-macho Jack (Cole Hauser) and his impetuous younger brother Tyler (Eddie Cibrian) as they explore an uncharted Romanian system hidden deep inside some mountain range or another. A church full of mosaics depicting Winged Demon Beasts From Hell Itself ripping apart adventurous types has been built over the sealed entrance, yet everybody still agrees that going in is a very good idea indeed, even after finding suspiciously empty boots and such belonging to the members of a previous expedition.
I'm sure it will come as a massive shock for you to learn that something nasty is indeed dwelling within The Cave (dun, dun, duuuuuuunnnnnn...), and that it starts picking off members of the party in a predictably systematic and largely unseen fashion. Not only that, but a wound sustained by Jack early on in the game would appear to have played host to a parasitic nuisance that not-so-gradually alters his mind and body in a way that suggests these Horrific Monsters Of The Deep Dark Bowels Of Utter Damnation might not be so ancient after all. Is my excitement palpable, readers? Is it? Can you feel the love I have for this film? Can you guess yet how utterly revolutionary this movie is? Shame on me for picking fault with such an easy target, but yes indeed The Cave (dun, dun, duuuuuuunnnnnn...) is pretty shitty.
Not that I expect these types of film to offer some kind of revolutionary spin on the genre each and every time. The last horror flick we enjoyed was British effort The Descent, and it's not like that was aiming to change the world as we know it in it's ninety minutes of fame. Rather it was simply a very accomplished and vaguely atmospheric attempt at outdoing the Americans at their own game, which it did. God knows it must have cost a fraction of the budget for this little number, which only goes to highlight how inadequate output like this has become in the last five years or so. One thing I will credit director Bruce Hunt with is that he seems to be the only recent American director to pay attention in class when the lesson titled Not Revealing Your CG Monster Too Quickly came around. In this age of computer trickery the current crop of young hotshots seem far too intent on "dazzling" us with what they seem to think are believable, utterly terrifying hell-spawn at the earliest opportunity. Hunt avoids this temptation, and his reluctance to throw the Winged Demon Beasts From Hell Itself at us within the first hour is one of the few things about this movie for which we're thankful.
As far as casting is concerned we're on par for the course, with a plethora of people whose faces you'll recognise yet not be able to put a name to all shrieking and coughing blood in the most disposable of fashions. Hauser does make something like an attempt at salvaging his dialogue, bless him, but when you're trying to look "feral" and shifty whilst burdened by ludicrous contact lenses in a scene where someone's yacking on about albino cave ferrets or some such shite the odds are rather unfairly stacked against you. There was probably temptation to camp it up, but fair play to the man for making pretty much the best he could of a role that could so easily have left him looking and sounding like a third-rate Gollum. As well as B-movie staples Cibrian, Piper Perabo and OneLiner favourite Morris Chestnut, the cast somehow also ropes in Brit favourite Lena Heady (where did it all go wrong, love?) as the closest thing to love interest and reliable old Romanian local boy Marcel Iures as the older scientific researcher who is mentor to Jack's caving team. Fans of over-rated TV tosh Lost will also recognise Daniel Dae Kim among the Demon-fodder, but don't expect anything like the depth of character he managed throughout his plane crash escapades.
Of course what really counts are the thrills, scares and chest-pounding moments of abject terror, all of which the cast and crew seem to have forgotten about on the way to collecting their pay. There are moments clearly intended to be unnerving, but it never once works on the basis that you'll be so bored by the bland characterisation and workman-like plodding of a director clearly unaware of the concept of atmospherics that any moments of shock are more likely to gently awake you from mild slumber than cause you to contemplate a change of underwear. In Hunt's defence, as well as steering clear of a quick monster reveal he does also favour less of that "sharp orchestral stab" nonsense that every other plum working in the genre seems to rely on these days, for which I must in fairness grant him some measure of respect. It's just a shame that this accolade comes from the failure of others rather than this particular director's own inventiveness.
I always end up feeling bad when I write about this kind of movie, almost as though I'm bullying a small handicapped child or something. It's quite telling that Hollywood has us in a position where the majority of the public seem to have come to accept this level of lacklustre output as the norm, so much so that picking on it for a lack of inventiveness or even the vaguest form of inspiration appears to make you a horrible, stuck-up elitist beast in the eyes of Joe Public. I for one offer no apologies for this. Firstly I am a horrible, stuck-up elitist beast, and secondly I think my readers and I deserve a hell of a lot better than this in terms of average output when we're now paying close to six quid a pop for a damn ticket. Nobody is expecting miracles, Mr. Tinseltown, but if you're not going to credit us with even the slightest intelligence don't be surprised when I and others like me tell you to rather roundly "do one".
I award this bland pap 2 out of 5 Units We Use
Eddie Cibrian (Tyler)
Morris Chestnut (Buchanan)
Lena Heady (Katherine)
Marcel Iures (Dr. Nicolai)