“Respect the Cave; it’s killed one person already.”
Ah, August, the tail end of summer. Things are winding down,
kids are getting ready to head back to school, and the studios
dump the last of their big summer releases. Usually the ones
they’re worried that aren’t quite good enough to make it in
the heady start of July, but aren’t bad enough to be direct
to DVD. The studios are hoping that somehow the flick will pick
up a cult audience (like Pitch
Black), or that we’re seen all the other major
releases and will go see anything, as long as it’s new. Thus
Sony presents The Cave.
So here’s the skinny. In Romania, under the Carpathian Mountains
(which I can never help saying without a cheesy Bela Lugosi
accent), is this long, deep hole in the ground. A cave, as it
were, with a river running through it. And not one that Brad
Pitt would go fish in, either.
Anyway, the movie opens in the 1970s, when a group of treasure
hunters find and break into the cave of the title. They have
to break in as the cave was sealed off in the Middle Ages by
a church being built over it. The locals did this after a group
of Knights Templar got themselves slaughtered by “demons” living
in the caves. We see enough to know this new team going to be
meat when the movie jumps to modern day, where a group of archeologists
examining the church find the cave and river system. Deciding
they need expert help, they call in our heroes, an ace team
of cave divers lead by brothers Jack (Cole “Pitch Black”
Hauser) and Tyler (Eddie “Third Watch” Cibrian).
Now, the cave divers are our standard action/horror archetypes,
a la Aliens. Which means the writers didn’t even try
to come up with anyone original. There’s the freaking-out Hicks
guy, the strong, silent second in command, the competent leader,
and the cocky young hot-shot. Then there’s the self-confident
adventurous woman, the older doctor and his young lady assistant
whose entire purpose it to be both love interest and exposition
spouter. You will note that I don’t put actor or character names
with these roles. I would do this if any of them were memorable
enough that I could identify them beyond their archetype.
Just like every other “team in a bad place” movie made, going
all the way back to the 1951 The Thing From Another World,
once the boogums appear this seasoned team of experts, who have
worked together so long to be like family, start bickering and
distrusting each other to the point were they’re as much a danger
to themselves as the monsters are. So there’s that stress, along
with the monsters doing the “10 Little Indians” thing to them.
The Cave is bland. It’s incredibly generic, yet another
“experts in danger from monsters” flick, and it doesn’t really
bring anything new to the table. It doesn’t help that I keep
confusing Hauser with both Josh Lucas and Matthew McConaughey.
Generic actor as generic hero in generic movie. To put it in
culinary terms, this flick is barely-seasoned tofu.
Now I say barely seasoned because there is one, small, tiny
idea that is pretty interesting, but it’s not enough to save
the flick. It will be very interesting to readers of this site
that are gamers (which I lay good odds are a nice chunk of you),
especially ones that play Call of Cthulhu or Delta
Green, as the monsters share a characteristic with Lovecraft’s
ghouls, and not the “eating the dead” one. The Cave has the
makings of a great game adventure. But as a movie, you can wait
for the video.
What really bites, so to speak, is that The Cave had
the raw potential to scare the pants off viewers. The movie
is set in the dark (which I have confessed my fear of before
on this site)
and partly underwater (another fear of mine, thanks dad for
taking me to see Jaws when I was five.) The team has
no weapons and faces cool-looking monsters, and the flick could
have been an intense thrill ride. Instead, they have their one
good idea and just don’t do anything new with it.
I didn’t hate The Cave; I wasn’t involved with it
enough to work up to that level of emotion. My feelings can
be summed up with one word: meh.