Cave, The (DVD)

Starring Cole Hauser, Morris Chestnut, Eddie Cibrian, Rick Ravanello, Marcel Iures, and Kieran Darcy-Smith

Directed by Bruce Hunt

Released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Rarely have I watched a film so hindered by its rating. PG-13 films can be good. For instance, look at The Exorcism of Emily Rose. There’s a film about one of the most controversial topics ever. Thanks to The Exorcist we have all come to expect possession films to be riddled with over-the-top profanities and very suggestive scenes. Emily Rose didn’t have any of that and still managed to be effective as hell despite its rating. It can work if done right. Unfortunately The Cave isn’t.

For the uninitiated, The Cave focuses on a group of cave-divers in Romania that find themselves in grave danger after a rock slide causes their entrance to be sealed. Finding a way out is not the only thing our newly buried protagonists have to deal with, and believe me it ends up being the least of their troubles. Before you know it they end up being hunted by winged subterranean creatures with an appetite for human flesh.

The Cave does a few things right. The feeling of claustrophobia and dread that the filmmakers create is at times stifling. Tight spaces feel just that, and the scenery is nothing short of haunting. Stellar lighting and sound design do much to add to the atmosphere. Water drips, shadows dance menacingly, and the use of your imagination add up to a sometimes frightening equivalent. You’ll have plenty of “What’s that? Did something move over there?” type moments for sure.

The real stars of the film are not the actors but the caverns and creatures that populate the cave. Let’s face it, man: This is a monster movie. You need cool beasties and creepy environments for them to roam around in! Again, The Cave delivers on this too. The full-time residents of this craggy, water-filled condo are amazing looking. Monster maestro Patrick Tatopoulos has created a truly unique looking baddie for this film. These things are the product of evolution gone horribly awry. Part humanoid, part bat, part raptor, and all deadly is the best way to describe them — and the best part? They are not solely CGI! Heavens be praised! I’ll take a guy in a rubber suit over a drawn-in cartoon any day of the week. There are some CGI bits here and there, but they’re mainly contained to wide shots and flight work. Another plus for the creature element of this film is that we’re not over-exposed to them. Whenever you become too familiar with something, it loses not only its mystery but its menace. The Cave does a good job of giving us just what we need to see.

All of this sounds pretty good, no? So what went wrong? The rating. The filmmakers wanted to be as edgy as possible. That’s a good thing. The bad thing is the cuts that needed to be made to ensure the film’s kid friendly rating are glaring! Trimmed scenes of violence and mid-profanity cutaways like “You motherf…” do much to take you out of the action. It’s like having somebody sitting next to you and smashing a board with the term “PG-13” written on it over your head repeatedly. I mean, why even bother? Who knows? Who cares!? But, Hollywood, if you’re reading . . . Please stop the madness. If there was one film that needed an unrated DVD release this year, The Cave is it. Sadly, we didn’t get one. Why is anyone’s guess.

The extras are slim but enthralling. The Into The Cave featurette is breathtaking. In it you’ll meet the real cave-divers that worked on this film. These guys are nuts! Some of the footage they have shot and some of the tales that they tell are nerve jangling to say the least. These guys are the real deal, and kudos to the filmmakers for contracting them to bring these elements to life for The Cave. Also included are writer and filmmaker commentaries and a featurette on the creatures themselves. In it we get a good look at not only the monsters but also the painstaking process of bringing them to life. Good stuff, but at best, adequate.

Somewhere in The Cave lies a good film. Maybe one day the good folks at Sony Pictures will dive deep into the all too obviously cut footage and restore it for us. Until then we’re left with a film that is far more shallow than it deserves to be. Unleash the beasts. Please.

Special Features
Filmmaker’s commentary
Writer’s commentary
Into The Cave featurette
Designing Evolution: Tatopoulos Studios featurette

2 ½ out of 5

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Steve Barton

You're such an inspiration for the ways that I will never, ever choose to be.