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The Cave

  The Cave
Coming soon: "Zoolander 2"

© 2005, Screen Gems
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When an excavation site in Romania reveals a seemingly bottomless cave, a scientist (Marcel Lures) calls in a dive team to investigate the untouched abyss. These scruffy professionals (including Cole Hauser, Morris Chestnut, Piper Perabo, Eddie Cibrian, and Lena Headey) are eager to explore the miles-long underground caverns, but once they establish a camp in the cave, they find they are not as alone as they thought. With mutated parasites around every corner looking for blood, the team must fight back to the surface, combating sanity and confusion along the way.

The two kings of last August, Morris Chestnut ("Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid") and Cole Hauser ("Paparazzi"), return to the screen for another late summer turkey, "The Cave" (IMDb listing). A horror film mixed with National Geographic-style diving sequences, the film furthers the promise of poor quality that both actors seem determined to fulfill.

A former second unit director behind "The Matrix" trilogy, "The Cave" was directed by Bruce Hunt, a man who knows a thing or two about action sequences and special effects. Yet, with this film, he's working with a colossally lower budget, thus the challenge to create something mysterious out of nothing is set forth. Hunt doesn't have a clue how to rise to the occasion. "The Cave" is a predictably PG-13 affair, utilizing almost pitch-black cinematography to cover the seams of the production, cutting awkwardly around violence, and utilizing a group of actors hired more for their muscles than any emotions they could possibly project. The film has a shoddy straight-to-video quality to it that makes it the quintessential late August, studio dump release.

However, "The Cave" didn't go to video; it came to theaters, which amplifies the film's pages-long list of faults. As a simple monster film, "The Cave" is crippled by the lack of a decent rating to understand just how dangerous the creatures are. Hunt always cuts away from their attacks, hiding behind that hoary Hollywood saying, "less is more." However, the film doesn't have any "more," and when Hunt relies on "less" for the whole film, the result is a tedious, uninteresting horror experience. Of course, it's tough to confirm that monsters are even in the picture, since a good glimpse of the beasties is never allowed. Hunt shakes his camera violently to convey the chaos the creatures bring when they step out of the shadows, leaving the action incomprehensible, and the audience queasy. I applaud the production for electing to use puppetry over CG for most of the monster screen time, but Hunt doesn't know how to photograph the mayhem, leaving most of "The Cave" a blur.

Without a solid eye behind the camera, that leaves us with a clueless cast in front it. Hunt demands that these limited performers act like their lives depended on it, padding the film with endless argument scenes to make the treasured 90-minute running time. This, of course, brings scene after scene of acting hilarity. In the lead roles, Chestnut and Hauser exude absolutely no charisma, and since they have to compete with poorly lit locations and flying monsters, they don't rise to the challenge, continuing to play their roles with monotone gut-determination while the movie continually laps them. By the end of the film, Hunt has sent his cast through the fundamental horror motions, made things go boom, and sets up an ending that promises a sequel. Good heavens, I hope that idea never surfaces.

Filmfodder Grade: D-

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