The Cave marks Bruce Hunt’s full directorial debut, although he has been a unit director on The Matrix trilogy and Dark City. The claustrophobic realism of the cave environment provides an interesting contrast to the imagined science fiction worlds of his previous experience. The primal fears that are evoked constantly in this picture, of drowning, falling, and being trapped where no one can rescue you, are genuinely disturbing, and far more frightening than the derivative and peculiar flying demons that plague the caving group.
The film’s premise is a strong one: an elite team exploring what they believe to be an unexplored and uninhabited cave complex in the Carpathians encounter terrifying giant parasites. Unfortunately, the film is frequently incoherent and very repetitive. Attempts to build suspense sometimes flounder as it is difficult to know what is going on or which characters we are watching in their generic cave-diving gear. There is a relatively unknown ensemble cast, so it may be unjust to expect any of the actors to really shine, but no-one stands out as worthy of remark, with Lena Headey’s performance as Kathryn and Piper Perabo’s spunky turn as acrobatic tomboy Charlie marginally better than the attractive male cast’s posturing and putting. Some characters, such as Marcel Iures’ Dr Nicolai, are so clearly marked for a gruesome exit that the only suspense lies in the exact manner and moment of their dispatching.
One of the DVD extras is better than the film itself: Into The Cave, an eerie and beautifully shot short film about filming and exploring in underwater caves. Wes Skiles, director of underwater photography, and Jill Heinerth, underwater unit coordinator, are both incredible individuals, and are really, as they point out themselves, the type of world-class professionals that the film’s characters are based upon. Jill’s descriptions of diving to shoot the movie and of filming under the world’s largest icebergs are fascinating tales of bravery and discovery. The whole short film is beautifully put together, and somehow manages to make cave-diving seem like an incredibly attractive prospect, no mean feat if you watch Into The Cave after the main feature, which will never form part of a cave-diving tourism campaign.
The other short film extra in the disc, Designing Evolution: Tatopoulos Studios, is not as compelling as Into The Cave but it provides an elucidating glance into the work that went towards making the creatures for the film. The creature designer, Patrick Tatopoulos, has the good grace to acknowledge the iconic influence of Alien and Predator on his creations, which bear striking similarities to the monsters of those better known, and more successful, films. A scene selection is also available and set-up options include stereo sound, Dolby digital 5.1 and the option to have English subtitles on or off. For a film that appears to have fairly modest aspirations, and that has been largely over-shadowed by its 2005 cave movie rival The Descent, The Cave is a watchable, briskly-paced and often scary thriller, with the bonuses of one good and one excellent short film on the DVD.