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Cave, The

When I first downloaded a trailer for The Cave it didn’t look like an altogether bad investment. The premise was generic, sure, with plot points from Alien, Pitch Black, and a half dozen other movies relocated to the dank recesses of a spooky grotto. This cave setting seemed interesting, though, and the trailer did a decent job of setting up some potentially nerve-pinching creatures. So when a friend ran down a list of features playing at the local cinema, I opted for The Cave thinking it would at least be a good subject for a review. Well, I was all too right. This is definitely a movie I need to talk about.

We open in “Cold War Romania” where some people are driving somewhere in some mountains. Already I’m bored. These people discover a church amidst the mountains, and underneath lies the mysterious cave all five of us audience members have come so eagerly to explore. I will give the movie credit for making the church marginally eerie, with a rotting statue of Jesus on the cross swinging amidst shadowed mosaics and such. Things get cheesy when, after detonating a charge to blast open the floor of the church to reach the cave, a rock slide rains down on the building. Let’s just say the CGI used to show this rock slide was direct-to-video at best. Everyone gets trapped in the cave, a noise is heard, and we cut to…

The present! I really expected some pounding rock music to signify this time shift, but alas, this cliché eluded me like a good martini…or something. Instead we get another set of explorers who also want to get inside the cave. Why? This is never really explained, but I got the impression the cave’s really, really cool. Like, big and stuff. The leader of the expedition, Dr. Nicolai, contacts “the best of the best” in terms of cave divers when an underground river is found in the cave. These people, sadly enough, will comprise our cast. There are two brothers who sometimes come into slight conflict, a girl who’s kind of hip and sorta tough, a black guy who…doesn’t really do anything, and an Asian fellah who films everything. Exciting, no? No.

What’s so awful about these characters is how we never learn anything more than what I just told you two seconds ago. Nothing. Oh sure, there’s an awful exposition scene where the brunette scientist asks the hip girl about her friends, but it didn’t begin to make me care. “So, how did you meet So-and-So?” “Well, we were roommates in college.” “How fascinating! And how did you meet That One Joe?” “He used to be a carpenter!” My, how fascinating kill me. Boring, boring, boring.

So we fast forward and everyone’s in the cave, not talking about anything important or doing anything interesting. Then the monsters show up, and the movie is still criminal in its tedium. You’d think demon cave spawn from Hell would ratchet up a movie’s chances about two notches, but the problem is you never get to see them and they’re just not very frightening. And I could never figure out if these monsters actually were demons, as the trailer and opening scenes claimed, or simply stupid animals who were scared of light and sound. Either way, I was falling asleep.

If you don’t think endless scenes of scuba diving or people looking at computer screen readouts will captivate your attention, perhaps a useless subplot will do the trick. See, at one point the leader of the team gets infected by one of the monsters. Now, the way the film sets this up would make us think he will actually become one of the creatures, but that would have been, you know, creative. Instead the guy just gets a waxy buildup on his skin, his pupils change shape, and he for some reason knows the motivation of the stupid monsters. “They’re enjoying this…they’re playing with us…” he whispers. Really? Who cares! Why was the budget big enough to create CGI freaks but not enough to turn this dope into one? I want more! Hell, a clown could have shown up and danced a jig and I would have paid more attention. Anything, for crying out loud!

So yeah, stuff happens, more stuff happens, I die a little inside, and two people manage to survive and escape the cave. Cut to a tasteful café where this guy and gal are sipping some coffee. Suddenly, completely out of left field, the woman leans in and we see her pupils are the same shape of the infected guy from earlier. She says something about how the monsters want to get out of the cave and then flees into a crowd, pursued hopelessly by her fellow survivor. Does this sound infuriatingly inexplicable? Would you sigh out loud upon realizing this ending is nothing more than a direct Xerox of Invasion of the Body Snatchers? Would you hate The Cave as much as I did? My God, yes, yes, and yes again. Just a stupid movie, plain and simple.

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