When everything is in black and white
- but not in black and white

The Descent/Caved In/The Cave
[+ The Monster That Challenged the World]

Dir: The Descent: Neil Marshall; Caved In: Richard Pepin;
The Cave: Bruce Hunt
Star: The Descent: Shauna Macdonald, Natalie Mendoza, Alex Reid
Caved In: Christopher Atkins, Colm Meaney, Angela Featherstone
The Cave: Cole Hauser, Eddie Cibrian, Morris Chestnut, Lena Headey

Three movies roll before my eyes and as luck - more bad than good - would have it they are all set in caves. To work well, a "cave movie" should be pretty much laid out in black and white. There's a team, a cave with some dark (sorry) secret and it all goes terribly wrong, with said team members getting picked off one by one. The challenge of a good cave movie is that we know all this going in, and the filmmakers have to find a way to deliver the goods without us realizing it.

First up is The Descent, a "no-one saw it coming" movie, so good in so many ways that it was both a joy and heartbreak to see the credits roll at the end. A joy because the movie remained excellent until the last frame and a heartbreak because, let?s be honest, that in itself is as rare as rocking horse droppings. The Descent completely delivers on all counts, as tense as it is exciting. Not only is it refreshing to see people in a horror flick act as people with brains rather than fodder most of the time, it is also refreshing to see a great genre buster lead by a strong ensemble cast of women. Go see it.

Then there's the European Caved In, a direct-to-DVD (via the Sci-Fi Channel) effort, so depressingly by the numbers that I'll be brief as possible. There are some big CGI bugs in a cave. There are also some big emeralds in the cave. A group of Euro-heavies employ a famous American caver to lead them on a treasure hunt. You can see the rest coming. There is some relatively surprising gore but that's all there is. The plodding nature of the script and the blonde's annoying screams had me reaching for the mute button long before the 'climax'.

The Cave is the PG-13, big-budget US entry into the field and, as such, completely sucks. PG-13, hello! It has some pretty CGI of a church getting lost in an avalanche in the opening bit and then fails to deliver, er, anything at all. Soulless characters flex their muscles and break out in designer sweat at all the right moments, while in the shadows, men lurk in rubber suits dressed as throwbacks to Alien.

But if you're looking for a monster movie, where everything is in black and white, but there is a colorful cast of characters to keep it fun and moving along, go and see The Monster That Challenged The World. Made in 1957, it rocks, while The Cave and Caved In just roll over and die. It's not The Descent, of course - but it is interesting, is it not, to watch a movie that is fifty years old and makes better beer and chips viewing than what you're "supposed" to go and rent, or watch at the local Cineplex. Or maybe that's just me...

Damien Drake
July 2006


The Descent:
Underground cult hit



The Cave:
More shallow than deep
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