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The Cave (2005)
Director: Bruce Hunt

review by Tony Lee
Spoiler Alert!
This is a fairly standard SF-horror. Its script by Michael Steinberg and Tegan West was inspired by real world discoveries in the Movile Cave, near the Black Sea in Romania. Explored in the 1990s, this cave is home to over 30 new species that, according to scientists, evolved via 'chemosynthesis' in a closed ecosystem of permanent darkness. Although the real cave's weird spiders, pseudo-scorpions and poisonous centipedes are biological curiosities, there's nothing in this underground monster movie that evokes the natural wonders of documentary footage or pictures from Movile. This is Hollywood at its most trite, with a thoroughly overloaded plot referencing everything from Cameron's The Abyss to Carpenter's The Thing, perhaps in the vain hope some of the disquieting suspense and astonishing artistry of those seminal productions will rub off...

Apart from the gender of its cast, The Cave is comparable to British pot-holing movie, The Descent, but only in general terms. Whereas that film (by Neil Marshall, director of Dog Soldiers) featured some genuine chills amidst the claustrophobic set pieces, and a fascinating psychological-thriller aspect, The Cave merely has frequently perilous action scenes, absurdly dramatic confrontations between bizarrely mutated denizens of the cave and members of the human expedition, and cardboard characters we must struggle to care about at all.

Jack (Cole Hauser, Tears Of The Sun, 2 Fast 2 Furious) and his brother Tyler (Eddie Cibrian) lead a team of divers that include Top Buchanan (Morris Chestnut, Half Past Dead), and Briggs (Rick Ravanello). These wannabe heroes are called into the Carpathian Mountains by chief researcher Dr Nicolai (Marcel Iures), and his rival Dr Bacovia (Vlad Radescu), who need expert help from such macho daredevils to uncover the extensive cave system's secrets. Also on the team is skimpily costumed wildcat Charlie (Piper Perabo, Coyote Ugly), who thinks climbing is more sporting fun than a professional or athletic endeavour, so we know from the start that she will come a cropper on the rocky walls when she's attacked during the spectacular finale. For its further shame, The Cave manages to waste inestimable talents like wonderful Bermuda-born Lena Headey (Face, Gossip) who looks great in a wetsuit as glamorous scientist, Kathryn, but isn't really given enough to do.
Lena Headey and Eddie Cibrian in The Cave Piper Perabo in The Cave
Bruce Hunt is making his directorial debut here, after second (and third) unit work on the likes of Dark City and The Matrix trilogy. His technical competence with stunts and on visual effects is beyond doubt. What he's sorely lacking is the simple ability to help his actors create characters, or tell a genre story in an intriguing and stylish manner. You'd have thought nothing could go wrong with a film about danger in the dark, but an unfortunate thing happens when the lights go out, and The Cave does not compare favourably to similarly angled shocker Pitch Black.

When the flying monsters eventually do appear, they are reminiscent of those winged creatures in subterranean adventure At The Earth's Core, despite being better realised - with top-notch special makeup designs and slick digital effects - as fanged horrors for the screen. And yet, cutting edge hi-tech in the service of just another humdrum formulaic American picture, only makes those old 'lost world' flicks, where strangeness lurks beneath the ground awaiting the unwary, seem positively blessed (if seen in the light of nostalgic reverence, of course!) with low-budget inventiveness and admirable good humour.
The Cave

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