The Cave Review
This one might sound familiar to you: a group of cave explorers get trapped in a vast underground labyrinth which just happens to be home to a pack of ferocious, man-eating monsters. Think back a month and a half and you might remember The Descent, a British-made low budgeter from the director of Dog Soldiers which had exactly the same premise. Here's the expensive Hollywood version.
The differences are exactly as you'd expect. The cave explorers in The Descent were a bunch of gal pals on an adventure holiday; in The Cave they're your standard chisel-jawed daredevils. Jack (Cole Hauser) and Tyler (Eddie Cibrian), a pair of intensely competitive brothers head up a team of cave divers that also includes Buchanan (Morris Chestnut), Briggs (Rick Ravanello) and Charlie (Piper Perabo). They've been sent to Romania to chart a newly discovered underground river. Along for the ride are a group of scientists led by the attractive Katherine (Lena Headey), who becomes one more thing for the brothers to compete over.
They're barely a mile into the caves when a team member is attacked by something large and nasty. The attack sets off an explosion that collapses the tunnels behind them. The thing that attacked him isn't one of the scuttling albino mutants from The Descent (or Creep). The creatures in The Cave are large, bat-like things which swoop down from the walls. It's not that the monsters look bad - the CGI is better than average and is integrated well with model work - the problem is in their conception. We're told these creatures have evolved to fit their habitat and I don't see how giant winged monsters would be well suited to live in a cave system. If the humans can barely make their way through the tunnels, how do the monsters get about? And are there really enough moles and eels to support them?
After that first attack, the movie follows the tried and tested monster movie formula to the letter - the explorers try to find a way out of the tunnels while the bat-like things pick them off one by one. You can't expect much originality from a monster movie but the likes of Tremors, The Relic and Anaconda have proved it's possible to still have fun with the genre. The Cave doesn't even try. This is a lazy, uninspired rip-off of a film where even the smallest details are borrowed from other movies. The monsters are copies of the winged beasts from Pitch Black while other elements are lifted from the Alien series and The Relic.
With the bulk of the film set in dark, grey tunnels, The Cave isn't much fun to watch and its awful dialogue is certainly no fun to listen to. There are no good scares and the gore is kept strictly at PG-13 level. Horror fans will definitely prefer the more liberal bloodshed in The Descent. I wasn't a huge fan of that film - I found the characterisation poor and the film slow, pretentious and nihilistic just for the sake of it. That said, it's head and shoulders above this.
There is one good scene when The Cave briefly splutters to life and generates the fun and excitement it's otherwise sorely lacking. It's the scene where the underused Piper Perabo, dressed in a Lara Croft crop-top and shorts, does battle with one of the bat-like things while swinging from a rock face. That's proper B-movie entertainment. The rest of the film sadly lives up to the slogan: "Beneath heaven lies hell. Beneath hell lies The Cave."