THE CAVE collapsed to dim reviews and oxygen-starved boxoffice results in 2005, when it competed that same year with The Descent (aka ‘Six Chicks with Picks’), which was much better and more successful. Both films owe lineage debt to “The Beast In The Cave”, an H.P. Lovecraft short story written in 1905. Romania’s Carpathian Mountains, where this subterranean thriller was filmed, along with playing host to Dracula, are riddled with more than 12,000 caverns. Who knows what-all’s down there? Waiting.
“It’s dark, it’s deep, it’s wet.”
An exploratory team with assorted spelunking, scientific and survival skills, goes beneath the Carpathian’s to examine ruins of a long-buried abbey, a site that comes with eerie mosaic art depicting demonic creatures with wings (man-bats in Romania?, go figure). The group naturally has macho personality types that clash, private scores to settle and a couple of hot ladies into stalactites, one a sensible doctor, the other a thrill-seeker. They’re outfitted with souped-up diving apparatus to allow for longer time spent in underground water situations. Fancy gear and attitude only goes so far when they encounter flesh-hungry, parasitic creatures that can swim, fly and squish through small spaces better than a lawyer. They can also mutate inside a human, something that further complicates the cast’s connect-the-slots casualty list.
Proficient, workmanlike direction from Bruce Hunt is undercut by the trope-heavy, humor-free script, written (in the dark?) by Michael Steinberg and Tegan West. “Respect the cave!” Those keeping track of feminine co-stars in creature-confronting cinema can relax grip on their Apprehension Gauge when the proper time comes for spunky spelunker ‘Charlie’ (Piper Perabo) to resort to midriff-baring attire, scaling cliffs in next-to-nada while the rest of the guys don full-body rubber suits. It must be in the ‘clause’. The special effected cave critters don’t live up to what we are geared to be scared/repelled by, coming off like combinations of several life-form-feasters from other movies.
Cole Hauser plays the group leader, the only interesting character and handles it well. Much credit is due the elaborate production design of Pier Lusigi Baseli and the skillful art directors (Cristian Corvin, Enrico Fiorentini, Vlad Vieru). Sets and locations are impressive throughout; it was shot in Romania (in Transylvania) and Mexico (the Yucatan and Hidden Worlds Cenote Park in Quintana Roo).
Bruce Hunt had overseen 2nd-unit work on the Matrix pictures, but this remains his first and only credit as director, so perhaps he took the fall for end product. No doubt it didn’t help aspirations that critics sniffed, but more damaging was that the $30,000,000 expended only grossed $33,296,457 back, a real cave-in. A tag-line for the ads was “There are places man was never meant to go“, which likely was echoed by a studio executive unloading “Like into a theater to see The Cave.”
All sniped, it isn’t horrible, just run-of-the-mill. A quick enough 97 minutes, with Eddie Cibrian, Morris Chestnut, Lena Headey, Rick Ravenello, Daniel Dae Kim. “Nemo”, a pretty cool rocker by Nightwish, accompanies the end credits.