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Review by
Kelly Parks

Screen Gems
Rated: USA: R

The tagline for this movie is: "There are places man was never meant to go." Which, of course, is stupid. But I'll try not to hold that against them.

THE CAVE was written by Michael Steinberg and Tegan West (who has lots of acting credits but just this one writing credit) and directed by Bruce Hunt (DARK CITY, THE MATRIX, THE MATRIX RELOADED, THE MATRIX REVOLUTIONS). Note that all of Mr. Hunt's credits are for 2nd unit or 3rd unit director - this is his first time in the big chair.

The story opens in the Carpathian Mountains. These mountains run through what is now Romania but what used to be Transylvania. A group of determined looking men drive up a narrow mountain road to reach an ancient, abandoned church. Their guide leads them inside the ruin and when he points out a tomb he speaks the name, "Tsepes". In case you're not a Horror Geek, "Tsepes" means "The Impaler". It was a nickname for a medieval member of Transylvanian nobility better known as Vlad Dracula, given to him because of his wacky habit of impaling people on huge stakes.

The tomb leads down to a catacomb decorated with murals of winged monsters with big sharp teeth. An attempt to go deeper does not go well.

Jump ahead to modern day. A group of cave explorers and biologists find the cave opening beneath the ruins of the same church. They realize that much of the cave is underwater so they call in a group of cave divers.

The cave divers are lead by Jack (Cole Hauser: PITCH BLACK, PAPARAZZI), a no nonsense alpha male. His crew includes his brother Tyler (Eddie Cibrian), and his buddies Buchanan (Morris Chestnut: ANACONDAS: THE HUNT FOR THE BLOOD ORCHID), Briggs (Rick Ravanello: CREATURE [TV]), Strode (Kieran Darcy-Smith) and Charlie (Piper Perabo). At the cave they meet up with Dr. Nicolai (Marcel Iures: DRACULA THE IMPALER, INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE) and his associates Kate (Lena Headey: RIPLEY'S GAME) and Alex (Daniel Dae Kim).

A lot of people, but this is a monster movie so you need plenty of meat for the grinder.

They get into the cave and like all movie caves it's mysteriously brightly lit. But they get here quick which is both good and bad. I hate movies with too much exposition but at the same time you need a little bit of time to decide if you like the characters enough to care what happens to them. A fine line, sometimes.

This cave expedition doesn't go well either and the group finds themselves trapped. They also find that the cave has a pretty diverse ecology, including some sizable and nasty animals. Since this is a biological survey mission they do have lots of scientific equipment. This leads to the discovery that much of the animal life in the cave is "infected" with a pretty amazing parasite.

And then they meet the monsters. That's not a spoiler - it's made plain in the trailer. In fact a lot of details that you'd think would count as spoilers can be found in the trailer, like the fact that the monsters they run into are actually the people from the previous expedition. You'd think they'd save that as a cool plot twist but whatever.

So now that you know what the monsters are and you know about the parasite, it's easy enough to put two and two together and get a

I must admit that the parasite as the cause is mostly believable. Parasites are quite capable of altering their hosts to suit their own needs (Read "Parasite Rex" by Carl Zimmer to find out just how weird parasites are). That being said, the idea that a parasite would alter its human hosts into large predators in order to survive in a cave doesn't really make sense. Turning them into big moles would have fit the environment better (like in THE MOLE PEOPLE). Giving them wings was just over the top but I can let that go. What I can't let go is the implication at one point in the movie that the parasite is intelligent and that it has "plans." That's just silly.

See more at SCIENCE MOMENT/The Cave.

I also really didn't like the fact that we hardly ever got a good look at the monsters. There were so many jump cuts and quick changes in camera angle that I'm still not sure what they look like. You gotta let us see the monster in a monster movie!

THE CAVE loses points because of all those small irritations and it loses more points because a lot of the acting is less than stellar. (Cole Hauser is okay - the others, not so much). Doing the math I see that THE CAVE ends up with two shriek girls.

This review copyright 2005 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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Smarties in the art department chose to use the same type font for the movie poster of THE CAVE as was used for THE MATRIX trilogy. Director Bruce Hunt worked on all of them.

Then the smarties in the art department tackled the DVD cover with the original idea of blatantly ripping off the TREMORS poster and DVD cover.

The creatures Cole Hauser's character, Jack, must fight against, use sonar to "see". Just like the monsters another Cole Hauser character, William, fought against in PITCH BLACK.

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