Reviewed by: JimmyO
What's it about
A six (well, eight with guides) member caving team search for an uncharted cave and get more than they bargained for once inside. Sound familiar? Of course it does. But is this cave worth diving into?
Is it good movie?
After watching The Cavern, it would be very difficult not to compare and contrast from the far superior Neil Marshall caving flick The Descent. Both feature a six member caving team, although The Cavern starts off with a couple of guides so they originally have eight. And they also have a tragic past surrounding the group. But what Mr. Marshall did with his film was create a claustrophobic and tension filled adventure that won’t get out of your head. Mr. Osunsanmi’s expedition lacks the tension and the chills, yet still fair’s better than the “other” cave movie with Cole Hauser and a much smaller budget. There is a strong attempt to create a terrifying atmosphere where there is no way out. But a major issue that keeps it from being truly satisfying is the lighting. Shot in HD, there are moments very similar to The Blair Witch Project where everything goes black and we only hear the breathing and the screaming. This was a powerful tool for the old Witch because it felt like someone grabbing a cheap camera and shooting whatever they can get. It worked with the structure of the film. But here, it felt like a gimmick that just didn’t pay off with too many moments in black that didn’t need to be. And when we do have light it is so poorly done, that much of the time you lose interest because all you can see is quick flashes and everybody keeps screaming. I also had problems with the constant “shaky cam”. This thing rattles way too much; add to that bad lighting, and you get a somewhat unpleasant and uncomfortable (for the wrong reasons) monster flick. It’s not scary, just annoying.
I also had some problems with the characters and the poor choices made. I didn’t get why or how they hooked up, especially the dude writing the book. Who the hell brought him along? And there were a few other “get the f*ck out” moments of characterization that didn’t work. This was really troublesome when the “soap opera” aspect regarding the earlier tragedy kicks in. They finally try and fight back but before they do they decide to have a “dramatic” moment. This happens a few times and I didn’t buy it. I didn’t feel much of anything for most of these characters. These are not bad performances at all, they seem pretty freaked out when the big bad starts attacking, and by that I mean really freaked out, which is another thing that irked me. Stop screaming and fight. Damn these people scream all the time. Sure, if I were in this type of situation I’m guessing I might let out an “ARGH” or two. But come on, they never seemed to really try. Batteries are running low, they are lost but they just keep running. Again, maybe The Descent spoiled me.
Even though there is a bunch not to love about this, it was still worth a look for a couple of reasons. As I said, the actors are pretty good here considering. I especially dug Sybil Temtchine and Andrew Caple-Shaw. I would have liked a little more exploration into the relationship between those two characters. Although, they do get into some action in a quick keep it under the covers sex scene, should have just thrown them into a couple of parkas. Come on, this is a horror movie, show some skin. But alas, not much came from their relationship and after awhile I forgot they even had one. I also appreciated the idea behind what is doing the killing. I won’t get too far into this without giving anything away but just to clarify; I liked the “idea”, not necessarily the way it finished itself off. And this flick runs just over 75 minutes and this ending still feels like they ran out of good ideas and just tried to be shocking. There were moments here that really could have been great yet fell flat and the scares were pretty minimal. But for all you gore hounds, there is a body torn in half and another with his stomach torn open but these are mostly after the fact. If you like gore this might satisfy you. So I guess the question is… are you ready to go caving again?
Video / Audio
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1 and it looks dark with a few bizarre lighting choices and it’s an okay transfer.
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 sounds better than the picture.
The extras here are pretty good for a little Indie horror flick. Sony showed the love. For starters, we get Commentary with writer/director Olatunde Osunsanmi. Not a bad commentary, but he tends to watch the movie and go silent a few too many times. Yet, he does bring up some interesting stories on how he got the film made. He talks about the camera he used, the editing process and how he created what he calls “halos” around the actors which he loved. I didn’t. This is a great listen if you are trying to get a film made but for others it might feel a bit flat.
Next up we have Within the Cavern: A Video Journal (20:36). This is a pretty detailed making of feature and I really enjoyed it. The sets they used looked great and it made me appreciate actor Andrew Caple-Shaw even more; on the set he finds that his car was on fire and he took it better than I would have and he still went to work. What a trooper. This is a great watch and I think, after watching this, smarter lighting choices and a better ending might have made this a pretty cool flick.
Wanna go caving? Well, with Caverns of the Mojave: An Expedition with Real Cavers (15:14) you can at least get a taste of what it would be like. This is a great way to experience it without actually doing it. It also gives you the feeling of what it might have been like to work on the movie. Not surprisingly, this feature had much better lighting.
Next is The Cavern Trailer (1:02) which makes the movie look slightly better than it really is.
If you want to see some very well drawn storyboards, you can check out the Storyboard Gallery. They did a good job with these but as I have mentioned often, not a big fan of the “point and click your remote” feature.
We are also treated to Previews for “Population 436”, you know, it’s the one with Fred Durst, “The Cave” (do I need to say anything?), “The Fog”, “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”, “Ultraviolet”, “Basic Instinct 2”, “Silent Hill”, “Freedomland” and “Mirror Mask”
This is a fair attempt to make another scary cave movie. But with awful lighting, odd camera choices and a very unsatisfying ending, it makes for a kind of nerve racking watch, and not in a good way. Writer/director Osunsanmi had an interesting story (albeit, very unoriginal) but he experimented a little too much with this Cavern. Lucky for his actors he seemed to enjoy directing them and is able to give them a few moments to shine. Now if he had only told them to stop with the damn screaming already. Somewhere in between The Descent and The Cave you’ll find The Cavern, yet if falls just a little closer to the later of the two.