If you’ve seen The Descent you’ve got an idea of what lurks in The Cave, a film with a similar premise that also was released theatrically in 2005. To wit, explorers conduct an excavation in the mountains of Romania for twelve days. They’re supposedly there to do research, but truth be told they are really just mutant bat chow.
Dr. Nicolai (Marcel Iures) and his associate Kathryn Jennings (Lena Headey), believe that the cave could contain an undiscovered ecosystem. They hire American spelunkers lead by Jack McAllister (Cole Hauser) and his brother Tyler (Eddie Cibrian) as guides. The diving team includes rock-climbing professional Charlie (Piper Perabo, sporting a sports bra), first scout Briggs (Rick Ravanello), sonar expert Strode (Kieran Darcy-Smith), survival expert Top Buchanan (Morris Chestnut), and cameraman Alex Kim (Daniel Dae Kim). Like all movies of this type, it includes sci-fi levels of equipment, including a modified rebreather system that can allow a diver to stay underwater for up to 24 hours and an Aliens-style SONAR system for exploring caves.
As evidenced by the special equipment, The Cave could easily be renamed The Underwater River due to the sheer number of underwater scenes. The Cave may disturb audience members who are afraid of the dark – it’s filmed in a real cave – but those with hydrophobia will definitely be creeped out. Of course, the real threat is the mutant bats.
SPOILER: The twist is that the creatures in this cave are actually a form of ancient pathogen that mutates its host, and the bat humanoids are actually just other spelunkers in the wrong place at the wrong time.
And so our much-too-fat herd of attractive spelunkers, scientists, and cameramen is thinned out by a roving band of brachiating, flapping predators that use Monster-vision — err, SONAR – to find their prey. We get a visual representation of how these things see, which will be important later when of one of the crew uses one of these devices to fend the critters off and the other to blow himself up. You guess which is which.
The monsters themselves are hulking gorilla-like albino bats with an Aliens-style twist to their features. They skitter and climb convincingly, and they make suitable opponents to the team members – particularly Charlie’s standoff, which is one of the few instances of a survivor fighting back. Mostly, people just get pulled underwater or into a tunnel, screaming as they go.
On the Syfy channel, The Cave fits right in. It’s a serviceable monster movie, but then fitting into the Syfy channel isn’t a compliment.