Halloween Endurance Test: the Cave (2005)

You know, for a cheap movie about people in caves, the Cave’s cinematographer (Ross Emery) is sure going all out with this opening sequence. Upward shots looking through a valley, the bird’s eye view of military convoys, rolling wheel shots from said convoy. I’m guessing Ross either: a.) worked on some Beastie Boys’ videos, or b.) grew up watching Beastie Boys videos. Either way it works.

Though I guess once you realize most of your shots are going to be on sets replicating the claustrophobic tightness of a cave network, you get your artistry in early. Good looking out to script supervisor Sophie Fabbri Jackson too, since who would’ve thought her cheesy script(s) would end up so influential? Sure, this is no Citizen Kane, but it did birth a horror sub-genre centered solely around caves (with the Descent and the Cavern being prime examples).

Shame on Ms. Jackson for everything else though. The script is the epitome of convoluted, mixing a spelunking misadventure with deep-sea diving, possession (via bacterial infection), makeshift piranhas, killer moles, all on top of the prerequisite baddie. Are we supposed to be worried about our protagonists drowning, being lost underground forever, or being eaten alive? I only have so much “care” to dole out, and I can’t possibly be giving it all to characters this needy.

(Though, in hindsight, the fact the film credits a “script supervisor” but not a “script writer” is telling. Probably explaining how the film turned out into such a mishmash of genres.)

Take back all that I said previously about the caves being small and claustrophobic. As this one is quite spacious, with the first base-camp clearly being inspired by Willie Wonka. I’m tempted to call “foul,” but then I realize that if you’re going to spend your time exploring caves, you’d probably be inclined to investigate the nicer looking ones. While the Cavern had a documentary attached that showed just how small some the crevices cave-divers have to crawl through, I’ve also seen pictures of some pretty gorgeous caves.

So what this film really needs are less scenes with people arguing over what to name the cave, and more with these same characters explaining cave-diving to the audience. Maybe make one of the scientists in the party a normal civilian scientist, and thus ignorant to the spelunking ways.

One of the only things the film does do well is its possession angle. Apparently there’s a parasite that been living in the cave for ages, and it infects you through the bloodstream. Naturally, it doesn’t kill you, but makes you a rampaging psycho. Who then proceeds to kill everyone else. It might, given enough time, also transform you into a giant rapist bat.

Climbing...

Unless you’re a fish or mole, in which case your teeth just grow larger.

Assaulted by bat. It happens that fast folks.

The good part of this is that while all this is happening, you still follow the actors. Everyone knows the expedition’s leader is infected, but somehow the film still manages to maintain the belief that he might not be that infected yet. The old “our buddy’s turning into a zombie, but we’ll keep him around for just a few more minutes” disbelief never really kicks in.

(The cynic in me just realized this whole metamorphosis angle could just be a way for the filmmakers to cover-up Cole Hauser’s wooden acting.)

Don't bring a "mapping gun" to a "giant bat" fight.

Your “oh my God, what the fuck?” sense will kick in, however, when you see the climatic showdown between a giant 50 year-old human/bat hybrid and caver Kim (Daniel Dae Kim); who comes to the fight wielding a “mapping gun.” Yes, a electronic gun that shoots out sonic pulses to map caves. Which is used, and sounds like, a cut-rate Star Trek knockoff.

If this review doesn’t seem to make much sense, that’s largely due to the fact that this movie may be one of the toughest ones that I’ve ever forced myself to sit through. Don’t believe imdb’s generous rating of 4.9. I suspect that the decimal point is misplaced.

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