Daniel Dae Kim
Horror Thriller Action
Trivia Composers Klimek and Heil wrote the gloriosu soundtrack to Tom Twkyer's Run Lola Run. Heil once produced Nena's hit '99 Red Balloons'.
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The Cave (2005)
16th Aug 05
When a group of scientists discover a giant underground cave system in Romania they hire a team of professional cave-divers to help investigate the new eco-system. Unfortunately the exploration team soon find themselves trapped in the cave with creatures that are much larger than first thought…
You wait years for a decent cave monster film to come along, and then two come along at once. Isn’t that always the way. Obviously The Cave shares many similarities with Neil Marshall’s recent film The Descent (a cave, a group of cavers and monsters for instance as well as some very similar shots) but The Cave is quite a different film, and whilst it doesn’t quite reach the heights (depths?) of The Descent it certainly is, for the most part, great entertainment.
After a tense opening prologue featuring the discovery of the cave 30 years ago, we cut to present day where Dr Nicolai (Romanian actor Marcel Iures) re-discovers the entrance to the underground system under a ruined abbey. “We’re going to need cave divers!” he exclaims so off we go to the good ship Shark in Mexico where we meet Jack (Cole Hauser) and Top Buchanan (Morris Chestnut) and their crew of divers amidst some glorious diving footage (the underwater footage throughout the film is fantastic) which proves that these divers can indeed swim through very small spaces.
On surfacing they take the call from Dr Nicolai, and accept the new cave mission, and with their gung-ho testosterone film explorer attitude (“…find something new and put my name to it…”) they catch a helicopter to Romania. Here the cave diving crew, including Jack’s younger brother Tyler (Eddie Cibrian), meet up with Dr Nicolai and sexy scientist Kathryn (a very believable Lena Heady) and cameraman Kim (Daniel Dae Kim from Lost).
So far so Hollywood, but thankfully the filmmakers have really done their homework scientifically with regards to eco-systems (chemosynthesis: the ability of an eco-system to survive without sunlight) and ‘true’ cave diving (mentions of lithium hydroxide, calcium and rebreathers - ok, enough science lessons!) that the film feels grounded in reality and won’t disappoint many cave divers or oceanographers in the audience.
Anyway, the crew finally get their kit together, listen briefly to a portentous tale of demons (“European legends always end sad”) and then abseil down the cave entrance to the first big cavern below. Briggs (Rick Ravanello) is the first one to venture down the underground waterway system, and although he has some interaction with a new creature, a sort of mole, the others including Charlie (Piper Perabo), rock climber extraordinaire, soon follow through to first ‘base camp’.
But unfortunately, (wouldn’t you just know it) something else is also down there and almost straight away one of the crew members goes missing during their swim across and a rock fall seals the entrance, leaving them with only two choices; look for a way out or sit and wait for a rescue team. But seeing as they are “one mile down and three miles across”, and they pretty much are the rescue team, Tyler and his men (and two girls) decide to push on in search of a way out.
And from here on in you pretty much know how most of it is going to turn out, but as it happens it’s all good fun and very enjoyable. There are one or two near-experiences of larger monsters, a lovely scene involving a whole gang of scorpions and the usual group-unrest that threatens to over-boil and cause more problems than the monsters themselves, and this is all before the half-way point.
Unbelievably The Cave has a 12A certificate, but don't let that put you off, it really is quite tense and jumpy in certain places. Indeed with all blood, frenzied attacks and lightning-flash editing it's quite funny to notice the ‘swearing’ that has been edited to ensure a lower rating. I mean, how many macho men say 'frigging' and call out to monsters "Come on you mother..!"
The direction and look of the film are all great, courtesy of Australian first-time feature helmer Bruce Hunt. As mentioned before, most of the underwater photography (and there is a lot) is outstanding thanks to the underwater photography team of Wes Skiles and Jill Heinerth, giving the footage an almost documentary-like feel. The cast (despite not having much characterisation to play with) have a good go with their script, which, whilst intelligent in places, still feels the need to slip in the old corny line from time to time – “He was Special Forces, man. He knew what he was doing.”
The monsters when we do get to see them all look fairly decent, but also feel slightly out of place in a cave like this, they aren’t quite as logical as the ones in The Descent. Still, they're nicely designed and work Ok to a point, but you get the feeling that creature designer Patrick Tatopoulos is just rehashing one of his earlier designs for Pitch Black.
Unfortunately, events do turn slightly silly towards the end in it’s rush to reach it’s adrenaline-pumping climax, and instead of keeping things subtle, The Cave attempts a climactic ending that feels like a combination of Aliens and previously mentioned Pitch Black. If that’s your thing great, but it doesn’t sit that well with the film’s opening promise of authenticity and thus things like ‘sound pulse guns’ and hints of parasitical activity feel shoehorned in for pure plot purposes.
As a Hollywood (younger age) horror though, The Cave is a fine attempt, with gorgeous photography and a fairly likeable bunch of characters getting munched along the way. Not as hardcore gore, or indeed as smart, as Marshall’s The Descent, but as a welcome second helping (or first if you’re in the US) of cave monster movies for this year, it’ll do very nicely, thank you very much.
The Cave is release in the UK and US on 26th August 2005.