The Cave

2005, Movie, PG-13, 97 mins


ALIEN redux. Thirty years after a group of explorers broke open the entrance to a massive cave located under the floor of a 13th-century Romanian church, then disappeared forever, cave biologists Dr. Nicolai (Marcel Iures) and his partner, Kathryn (Lena Headey), prepare to explore what they suspect might be one of the largest cave systems on record. To lead his team through the network of tunnels that may stretch a whopping 90 miles under the Earth's crust, Dr. Nicolai calls in steely-eyed Jack McAllister (Cole Hauser) and his crackerjack cave-diving crew: Top Buchanan (Morris Chestnut), Briggs (Rick Ravanello), Strode (Kieran Darcy-Smith), Charlie (Piper Perabo) and Jack's brother, Tyler (Eddie Cibrian). Undaunted by the gruesome mosaics that once covered the church floor — mosaics depicting Knights Templars fighting a losing battle against winged demons — the crew drops 300 feet below the cave entrance into an enormous cavern, then swims two-and-a-half miles along a completely submerged passageway searching for a dry spot where they can set up an advance base camp. Much to Kathryn and Dr. Nicolai's initial delight, the waterways and caves themselves are filled with a wild assortment of heretofore unknown creatures: slimy, fanged eels, blind albino rodents, bizarre microscopic parasites. And there's something else — something big, amphibious and extremely vicious that soon begins picking off members of Jack's crew. After an accidental explosion seals off the underwater passageway through which they've just come, Jack realizes the only way to get out of the cave is to first swim deeper into it. ALIEN (1979) was a haunted-house movie in outer space, and this is ALIEN underwater, right down to the team member who might not be exactly what he seems. Unlike ALIEN, however, none of the characters is developed past his or her first name, and it's not very scary. The movie's greatest asset is Wes Skiles' underwater photography, which seamlessly mixes scenes shot in a studio tank in Romania with footage of actual caves off Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula; it creates a sometimes beautiful, always creepy netherworld that deserves far better than the cheap thrills that unfold within it. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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