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Movies often come in twos. For every Armageddon, there's a Deep Impact, for every Terminal Velocity there's a Drop Zone. Hollywood is like any other business animal, once it finds something that works, it plays it to death. Often this involves waiting until somebody more original has been successful in a field and then trying to cash in on the success. This year saw the release of the latest Brit production from Dog Soldiers' director, Neil Marshall, The Descent. A superior independent horror movie, it followed a group of cave explorers who uncover much more than they expected underground. Around the same time, the US produced a very similar movie of their own, on the same subject, called The Cave.

The Cave


After a brief prologue—to establish that thirty years ago a band of renegade soldiers, who were trying to steal a hidden treasure from a Romanian temple, were lost in a cave in—we cut to the present day and are introduced to a team of expert cave divers who have been recruited to research and explore that same cave, with a view to recovering those same valuable artefacts. Almost all of the team are ex-something-or-other, and they are led by Cole Hauser's Jack and include his competitive younger brother Tyler (Eddie Cibrian), his ex-military colleague Buchanan (Morris Chestnut) and climbing specialist Charlie (Piper Perabo). The crack team are also joined by three caving experts, including Lena Headey's Kim. They are the best at what they do, but nothing can prepare them for the trouble that they encounter once they enter the cave. It starts with their exit route being blocked and ends with no end of difficulties as they fight vertical climbs, bottomless caverns, changing conditions and unexpected creatures that reside within the unexplored depths, in a desperate bid to search the cave for another way out.

Taking its cue from The Descent (whichever film came first, the stories are remarkably similar—a close unit of friends joined by a couple of mysterious newcomers find themselves trapped underground, with no hope of rescue and no idea how to get out and who are picked off one by one by darkness-dwelling beasts as they try and get back to the surface - and it is abundantly apparent which is the superior production), The Cave is a distinctly B-movie affair that appears to have been put together at the last minute, with a disappointingly low budget and relatively poor direction. As horror-thrillers go, it is muddled at best. The plot is full of holes, inconsistencies and continuity problems (throughout the underwater sequences, despite the fact that you can see that all the crew have rebreathers connected to their mouths, they communicate to one another as if they were chatting in a studio together—which, I guess, they were), and there are some feeble excuses for some of the more implausible on-screen happenings.

The Cave
It does not help that the characters are also woefully underdeveloped, with even the team leader and would-be star, Cole Hauser (from Pitch Black), barely saying anything more than the absolute minimum for the entirety of the movie. Many of the other cast members are boxed into muscle-flexing stereotypes and you can almost predict the fate of each and every one of them in a plot where most of the potential twists have been done to death before (and those that haven't are implausible beyond belief and borderline hilarious). In fact, the only cast member really worthy of a mention is the lovely Piper Perabo ( Coyote Ugly), who is shamefully underused throughout the movie but briefly comes into her own for one solitary CGI-enhanced action sequence reminiscent of something out of Cliffhanger.

All in all I have to say that this was a bit of a wasted effort. If you enjoyed The Descent then you are only likely to be overly disappointed by this lacklustre facsimile and if you saw this movie first then that has probably put you off any caving-related films for life. Apart from a couple of vaguely engaging set-pieces, it is a strictly by-the-numbers, dispassionate affair that does not even have the necessary action eye-candy to keep you interested in a popcorn flick kind of way. So please be wary, if you are going to see or buy this movie, don't expect too much and then hopefully you will avoid too much disappointment.

The Cave


The Cave is presented in a superb 2.40:1 aspect ratio anamorphically enhanced widescreen transfer, especially considering its dark, often underwater scenes. The detail is excellent, with no edge enhancement, no softness and no noticeable grain. The colour scheme is quite broad and varied, but the dominant colours are the blues, greys and blacks of the underwater caves and these all look hauntingly good. The solid blacks also allow for some superb shadowing and the transfer itself exhibits absolutely no print defects, rounding off an excellent and cinematically broad movie presentation.


The Cave is given a brilliant Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track as well. Dialogue is clear and coherent from the frontal array but the surrounds get no end of a workout, not least from the myriad effects (from the water propulsion devices, breathing apparatus, trickling waterfalls and echoing cave walls) but also from a suitable dark score. The soundtrack itself reminded me a little of a John Carpenter variation on the score from the new Battlestar Gallactica series with a bit of the Alien score and even Jaws thrown into the mix, and lots of strong bass and penetrating beats to make you feel uneasy. There is also a Dolby Digital 2.0 track which feels much more restricted by its limited array. This is the kind of movie where a DTS track would have been an excellent addition, but what we have here is certainly a superior Dolby 5.1 effort.

The Cave


There are only two extras, both documentaries: ‘Into the Cave’ and ‘Designing Evolution’. ‘Into the Cave’ runs at about seventeen minutes in length and takes an in-depth look at cave-diving as a sport. We get to hear from the consultant expert divers that worked on the movie, first about their own experiences in caves (the, um, pitfalls of the dangerous activity which has resulted in a roughly one in twelve mortality rate), the passion behind the sport and the technology used to help them dive (for example, the difference between rebreathers and standard scuba divers), and then about what they contributed to the movie. They talk about how the story is based on the real-life experiences of these team members (well, apart from the really big monsters) but that does not really sell the sport to me. Still, it is a nice very non-fluffy (there are almost no film clips used) documentary to include here that will be of interest to anybody even vaguely intrigued by this activity.

The second documentary is entitled ‘Designing Evolution’. This runs for ten minutes and looks at the creatures that they create for the movie. I say 'that they create' when I really mean 'that they copy'. They even have the gall to compare their 'creations' to those in the Alien and the Predator movies, when it is blatantly obviously that there is no originality here and that they just used those ideas as a template for what is a feeble variation on the basic Alien design. Trust me, if you stuck these creatures in the next Alien movie, they would not look out of place. Spending ten minutes listening to the purported creature designer talk about the 'wonderful' work he did on the project was positively cringe-worthy but for those interested by the bad guys that they created for this movie, it will probably be an interesting featurette.

The Cave


The Cave is yet another Hollywood effort that probably should not have been made. With simply nothing original to offer and only some pleasant underwater footage (that would have been better off in a BBC documentary) and mildly engaging action moments to keep you vaguely interested, it simply does not stand up amidst its peers. The video and audio presentation are far better than it deserves and there are a couple of nice extras for fans of the movie (or of cave-diving) but if you want my advice, you'll stick to The Descent, it does a much better job in every respect.