August 29, 2005

The Cave

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Beneath heaven lies hell…. Beneath hell lies…. THE CAVE!!! Did that scare you? No? Unfortunately for any potential viewers of this film, the tagline is the most frightening aspect of the movie. It’s billed as a horror/thriller/sci-fi film, in the same vein as Alien Vs. Predator, (so you know how good this flick must be), but it doesn’t provide any frights and inspires little interest or awe, failing in its role as cheap, rousing entertainment, which is the only reason why anyone would go to see this film. The Cave loses the nimbus that a horror or sci-fi classification could have provided, and instead is just terrible cinema.

The movie begins in 1975 with a team of up-to-no-gooders prowling through the remains of an ancient church who accidentaly fall into the abyss. The roof above them collapses, and they are never heard from again. Cut to the present day, and an archaeological team is exploring the ruins of the same church, when they, too, discover the mysterious cavern. Curious, they send for professional cave divers to capture footage of this unexplored territory. Our heroes the cave divers are introduced, fly to the mountains where the entrance to the cave is located, and after some scientific mumbo-jumbo, begin their task. Now the fun part begins. Or at least in theory it should.

Isn’t it amazing that the world’s best cave-exploration team consists of good-looking, twenty-to-thirty-something physical paragons? Maybe it’s just my ignorance, but I never knew that scientific jargon includes the phrases “Sick, dude!” and “Totally rockin!” Oh, but there is the obligatory old doctor there to add credibility to the team. (With a British accent to boot!)

Following a cookie-cutter plot the cave explorers encounter strange creatures, team members get separated from one another, people are picked off one by one, etc. etc. with nothing scary or thrilling as a result. None of the characters are given any weight and elicit no concern or interest from the audience. Besides, for being scientists, they’re really dumb. When their team leader, Jack (Cole Hauser) is bitten by one of the creatures, he becomes pale, wide-eyed and mad, but they still follow him. Even when the shape of his pupils change into diamonds and his skin becomes sallow, they heed his commands!

In one scene, Briggs (Rick Ravanello) encounters a mysterious creature after he is sent out to explore the first mile of the cavern. Briggs disappears from the video screen and soon reemerges holding a creature with large front teeth. What should be an amazing moment for the team is dealt with nonchalance and laughter from his fellow scientists. Briggs continues to hold the creature and describe it to the crew, as if he were Jack Hannah appearing on the Tonight Show.

The frenetic camera during the action scenes makes it hard to comprehend what’s going on. The cave monsters look like muppets. When someone dies, the grieving process is just long enough for someone to scrunch up their face and well up with tears, until they are promptly told, “Shut up!” or “It’s over.”

What’s perhaps most annoying, however, is the use of the classic anticipation music as compensation for anything interesting actually happening on screen. It’s playing when they swim from one cave to another, it’s playing when they’re just walking, it’s playing when one of the characters is performing CPR. Many times, silence and the unknown are more powerful than any music or monster, no matter how creepy.

The Cave is not completely devoid of any attribute. In fact, it may just be the best comedy of the year.

Archived article by Terry Fedigan