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Cave, The

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 08/27/05 17:31:04

"So very, very stupid... and so very, very fun."
3 stars (Just Average)

There is nothing about “The Cave” that made me expect anything more than cheap junk. Its plot seems like one of those crappy high concept numbers thrown about by Hollywood executives who think audiences won’t like anything that can’t be described in ten words or less. Its title is a generic reject, the sign that nobody could come up with anything actually memorable. And it’s getting tossed into theaters in late August, the dumping ground for summer popcorn leftovers. With all of this against it, how was I to realize that “The Cave” is in fact a tight, slick thriller, a B grade monster movie that works?

The story opens in Romania, circa 1975, where a band of explorers/treasure hunters/whatever break into a bleak, abandoned mountainside church. Apparently learning nothing from “The Keep,” they break through the religious artwork that’s been put there to keep the nasty stuff on the other side from poking out. The group plummets into a massive underground cavern, fade out.

Cut to 2005, where the world’s best cave explorers - among them are Cole Hauser, Morris Chestnut, Piper Perabo (whose wetsuit and/or bikini appearances make a strong case for the film), Daniel Dae Kim, and Eddie Cibrian - have been hired to examine a newly discovered underground river and cave system in, you guessed it, Romania. The ominous prologue was only the first clue that things will not go well for our intrepid heroes.

The first thing that should be noted about “The Cave” is that it sports some of the finest underwater photography ever recorded. If you think that the stunning work of cinematographer Ross Emery and underwater unit director Wes Skiles is wasted on some low grade monster flick, let me remind you that these guys are in good company: “The Creature From the Black Lagoon,” just a low grade monster flick, remains one of the benchmarks for underwater filmmaking. Major kudos to the film crew for producing such a lush, wow-inducing look on such a budget.

With impressive production values able to back him up, director Bruce Hunt is then allowed the room needed to work the tension. The screenplay (from Michael Steinberg and Tegan West) is overloaded with logic gaps, scientific impossibilities, and general idiocy - for all the time it takes the movie to explain how the rebreathers work, the movie then forgets to explain how a group of people with scuba gear crammed in their mouths can talk to each other so clearly - but it also knows how to work it when it counts. The film becomes a checklist for phobias. Fear of heights? Got it. Fear of the dark? Check. Fear of tight spaces? And then some. Hunt cranks up the tension in all the right places, and “The Cave” very quickly becomes the dumb fun ride it wants very much to be.

Throughout the film, I was reminded of such non-classics as “Anaconda,” which I still admit to liking very much, despite myself, and “Deep Blue Sea,” which I had avoided until I was very recently convinced that I would enjoy it, dumbass bits and all (they were right). “The Cave” has that same kind of vibe: every logic-loving bone in your body is telling you that it’s all too stupid to enjoy, while every monster movie-loving bone is telling the other bones to kiss off, it’s time to have some fun. And that’s exactly what this film is: a whole lot of fun. Idiotic, well-intentioned, ridiculous, good-looking, preposterous fun. But hey, sometimes we want to see a movie about expert cave divers who get attacked by winged demons, preferably with at least one scene in which Piper Perabo is allowed to yell, “They freakin’ fly!!!”

I mean, Cole Hauser kicking demon ass in Romania? Pass the popcorn.

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