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The Movie: The Cave (2005)
Kinda obvious why no one seems to mention The Cave: it came out the same year as The Descent. As is often the case with these double movie kerfuffles – they happen a lot – one became well-known while the other faded into obscurity. That’s the only mention I really want to make about The Descent because The Cave deserves to be judged on its own.
And on its own, it’s a fuckin’ great creature feature.
It’s not perfect by any means. The score by Reinhold Heil and Johnny Klimek is as lunkheaded as a few of the actors, and there are some really stupid decisions like having the cave divers be able to talk to each other while they have regulators stuck in their mouths. Not all of Bruce Hunt’s direction is as clear as it could be and that’s kind of necessary when your movie takes place primarily in caverns and under the water.
But as a monster movie? The Cave is a sweet throwback of a flick and isn’t ashamed of its drive-in tone. You get a whole bunch of creatures throughout the film that culminates with something that looks like it belongs on the cover of an ‘80s metal album. The main baddies in this picture are gnarly beasts that flit between delightful practical effects and mostly passable CGI.
So, I made a crack at the cast and that’s a little unfair. You’ve got Cole Hauser, Morris Chestnut, Daniel Dae Kim, and Lena Headey all doing a solid job for this kind of movie. When Cole starts turning into one of the creatures, you get to see him go full HauserCreep and it’s a definite treat.
There’s also a surprising sense of scope to the whole thing. Maybe that’s actually counterintuitive to a premise that should feed on claustrophobia, but it makes The Cave feel like a way bigger movie than it is. The actual underwater stuff pales in comparison to the more cavernous set pieces. There’s a sequence where Piper Perabo’s character is scaling this enormous rock wall and she leaps across a chasm, and man if it doesn’t look like a million bucks.
As much as I dug the film, it does fall victim to plenty groan-worthy genre trappings. The characters aren’t much more than fodder for the monsters and the movie’s concept far outreaches the budget’s grasp. Of course, that’s part of the charm with these kinds of popcorn horror films. Probably the thing that keeps The Cave from greatness is its lack of a good hook beyond the monsters. Tremors had a cast of lovable characters, Critters had the bounty hunters, and Gremlins had the merchandisable Gizmo. The Cave gets by on its villains alone but they are some mighty fine bad guys.
Is It Worth Mentioning?: Oh my stars, absolutely. It’s a cheeseburger of a flick but you can’t help but love that greasy goodness. If this had been made in the ’80s, you would be seeing losers like me wearing t-shirts with the poster on it.
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