Monday, August 10, 2009

The Cave

Some bad movies age like wine, getting funnier and more lovable every time you see them. MEGAFORCE, for example, is a film that never ceases to reveal yet another nugget or two of awesome, hilarious badness I never caught before. As terrible as it is, it actually rewards additional viewings just to see what other wackiness Henry Silva's evil gay cowboy or Barry Bostwick's homoerotic BeeGee impersonator had been getting up to all along.

And then there are bad movies that age like milk. 2005's The Cave is a great example. I remember seeing The Cave in a theater on opening day and having a blast with it. It was cheesy and hokey and poorly made and even more poorly acted and I laughed myself silly. I rushed home to praise it's wonderful badness on another blog that I had back then. I believe I called it "akin to Sccoby Doo, only with an old chap in place of the dog" and celebrated how the film's monsters were so fake you could almost see the zippers on their backs. It was a hoot and half and I felt it my duty to encourage others to see it.

Flash forward to today, when I sat down to rewatch The Cave so I could write this review. Oh my God, it was so awful. And all the funny had been drained out of it. Oh, I was so sad. I remembered all the parts that had once made me laugh and now I sat there watching them and wondering why they were so funny in the first place. With four years to allow my tastes to mature and the initial rush of adoration wear off, I could finally see The Cave for what it really is: an extremely boring film.

The Cave begins thirty years in the past in "Cold War Romania", where the most intrepid and inefficient team of gold thieves in history trek all the way out to some remote, nearly impossible to reach location in the Carpathian mountains. I don't know if they had already gotten the bank and the jewelery store and were otherwise out of places to hit or if they're just morons. Nah, they're just morons. They come upon a church built precariously atop a cliff so high and steep it should be insurmountable to a bunch of average joes with no climbing gear like our friends here, but they reach it anyway. Apparently, according to local legend, this church is built over the mouth of a cave containing two things: some gold, and some big, winged demons. The church is supposed to channel the holy ghost to keep the demons back or something. The thieves blow their way through the floor into the cave, only to be sealed in when a sudden rock slide flattens the church above them.

Flash forward to today, when Dr. Nikolai, one of those great movie scientists who's never pinned down to a particular field of study (because the target audience wouldn't care anyway), leads an expedition down into the same cave. Shortly after entering, he finds that it drops way far down into a big underground river and decides to call in some friends who happen to be deep sea divers who specialize in mapping underwater caves. Ah, yes, the divers. A veritable Scooby gang to Nikolai's, well, Scooby, they are just generic and good looking enough to make the perfect cast for a movie where they'll never have any character development and they're all going to die anyway. No point in getting good actors, just get some handsome guys and a hot chick and that's all that matters. The only person here (and in the entire movie) I recognize is Piper "Cinematic Kiss of Death" Perabo, a true luminary having starred in such classics as Cheaper by the Dozen, Cheaper by the Dozen Two, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Whiteboyz and the delightful sounding Slap Her, She's French. This woman is an utterly horrible actress with the pedigree to prove it.

Anyway, the team shows up and together with Nikolai and his frigid cohort Katherine, they head down to explore the ninety-mile long cave. Those of you expecting a thoughtful National Geographic film on cave mapping will be saddened when things almost immediately go wrong, the winged beasts proving to be real and an explosion sealing the way back and forcing the team to slog all ninety miles while being picked off by the creatures. And that's where it gets boring. Well, it was already boring but now it gets really boring. They walk through the cave. They swim through the cave. They walk and they swim some more. Some of them die, another gets "infected" with monster DNA or some crap and starts becoming one...and there's all that walking and swimming in between. Seriously, this is an advertisement for spelunking more than anything else. The action sequences, such as they are, are few and far between because dammit we need more shots of people stumbling their way through an uncharted area like blind fools. This movie is only 97 minutes, but it feels like 97 years thanks to all this walking and swimming being so tedious.

And it's not even like the monsters are cool. They look stupid, like big flying skeletons with gargoyle wings, made out of papier mache and moving along fixed wires like something they'd employ as Halloween decor at Knots Berry Farms. They're not scary, they're just kinda goofy. Oh, and they had to knock something off, so the monsters totally have the head of the Alien from Ridley Scott's sci-fi opus. And while the monsters are usually CGI, there are shots where they're actually guys in suits and you can practically see the zippers on their backs. So, so hokey. And yet not in any amusing way anymore. This go-round I was just offended by how little care went into them. The sets at least look decent, but I do have to question one sequence in which they, erm, forgot to build the set I guess. The characters ride down a water slide and find themsleves in a giant room which is just a water tank on an empty, darkened soundstage. When they cast their flashlights about you can even see where the tank ends and the soundstage wall begins. It's like no one realized they could have glued some of those foam rubber rocks from the other sets up there. I was reminded of Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, when Supes goes to the moon and you can see the folds in the black curtains that are supposed to represent "outer space" off in the distance.

The acting is abysmal, even if you ignore young miss Perabo. This cast is so wooden you'd think they were freshly carved by Gepetto. It's just an army of blank, expressionless, faces that aren't even trying. Just watch Cole Hauser reacting to someone's death and try not to be utterly amazed at how lifeless he is. "Ah, he's dead. It's over". Like he'd just squashed a bug and was trying to reassure his sissy girlfriend she could come down off the chair now.

God, I don't know what I ever saw in this garbage. To be honest, I fell asleep while rewatching it. Mind you I had gotten twelve hours of shut eye before hand. And still, I got groggy and fell into a coma and woke up to realize I'd miss the ending. I just ejected the DVD and moved on. It really doesn't matter, because nothing can redeem this tedious piece of trash. It's just a lame twist ending trying to set up a sequel anyway. Thank God they failed at that.

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