I'm generally a fan of creepy, shadowy creature features ("Pitch Black", even "The Relic") if done well enough. Although its theatrical release was rather brief, I was looking forward to "The Cave" which, despite its generic title and familiar set-up (think "Pitch Black", only underground), generally turned out to be an alright time-waster.
The directorial debut from former "Matrix" trilogy second/third-unit director Bruce Hunt, "The Cave" stars Cole Hauser as the leader of a group of cave divers who head to the Carpathian mountains when they're called to investigate a massive cave system. We already know from the opening that a prior team was lost when they entered the cave and something was circling them in the darkness, so the audience sits back and waits for the monsters to return again.
Sure enough, the movie doesn't waste much time before trapping this new group in the cave system and sending the creatures into the mix. Jack is attacked, and after a while, it becomes evident that he's slowly changing. Meanwhile, the others in the team are dropping one-by-one.
The film doesn't develop the characters much and the action in the near-darkness is made somewhat difficult to follow at times, but through the creepy, ominous settings and unsetting sound design, the picture still gets some light chills on occasion. The performances aren't great, but they're pretty decent for the material, with Hauser's dry delivery adding to the grim feel. Some of the other actors barely get any screen time, and are clearly meant as monster chow.
"The Cave" isn't a great (or original) picture by any means (the CGI creatures aren't terribly well-done and some scenes are a bit of a mess in the darkness), but I was never bored, and its 90 minutes and change went by fairly quickly. Just about rental level for those interested.
VIDEO: "The Cave" is presented by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen. Picture quality was generally excellent, although the presentation did show some minor faults. Sharpness and detail were usually top-notch, even in some of the darkest sequences.
The one flaw that tripped up the presentation on a few occasions was edge enhancement, as some slight amounts were visible in some of the early scenes. Later on, a few minor traces of pixelation were spotted. Overall, these issues were noticable, but not particularly distracting. No print flaws or other concerns were visible. Although the majority of the film offered a largely subdued color palette, colors that were seen appeared accurately presented.
SOUND: "The Cave" offers a terrific Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation. Surrounds are engaged almost constantly to offer ambient sounds as well as both the creature sounds in the distance as well as the roars, flaps and other various sounds of the creatures closing in. The settings and situations certainly offer a lot of opportunities for great audio, and the film's sound designers have taken advantage of most of them. The sound created a nice atmosphere, and the front speakers handled the action in superb fashion, as well. Audio quality was terrific, as dialogue remained crisp and clear and effects seemed well-recorded and punchy. This was certainly an involving audio presentation throughout.
EXTRAS: The DVD offers commentaries from director Bruce Hunt, producer Andrew Mason and special FX producer James McQuade as well as writers Tegan West and Michael Steinberg. The participants on the first track are a little dry, but they do give a good overview of the production and discuss shooting on location, changes to the film, working with the actors and other production issues. The track with the two writers is a little more lively, as they enthusiastically discuss the lengthy process of trying to get the script made, inspirations and changes made, such as how Jack's transformation isn't presented as strongly in the film as they had wanted. We also hear about how the writers never intended the picture to be a PG-13, and that an R-rated cut was done. A very interesting track, and I would have liked to have seen a longer/different cut of the film, or at least have read the original script.
Also included are: "Into the Cave", an 18-minute "making of" documentary and the featurette, "Designing Evolution: Tatopolulos Studios" (creature design). Previews for other titles from the studio are also included.
Final Thoughts: Not great, yet not terrible, "The Cave" offers a solid setting, a couple of decent performances, a few thrills and moves along pretty quickly. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment offers a fine DVD edition, with solid audio/video quality and a nice selection of supplements. Rent it.