No doubt there are scientists who describe their finds in terms like "Totally rockin'," but they're probably overrepresented in the sample served up by The Cave, a geo-horror film filled with wet actors, dimly lit soundstages, and another batch of monsters that appear to have escaped from the 20th Century Fox storage facility housing the beasts from the Alien series. Ah, but there's a crucial distinction: These are monsters from within the earth, not outside of it, the same creatures who haunt the folklore of the Romanian countryside that's home to the film's eponymous cave.
Got it? Good, because the rest will come easy to anyone who's sat through a movie in which monsters systematically munch their way through a cast of budget-bin actors toting heavy equipment. Here, it's a bunch of spelunking geologist types led by Cole Hauser, who's on a mission to explore a cave coursing with unexplored waterways and mysterious life forms. Is it totally rockin'? No. But for a while, it could be worse. Underwater footage shot in Mexico and set to eerie music suggests that The Cave might be trying to create a new genre of IMAX-inspired horror. Then the budget limitations creep in, and it's business as usual.
And business is slow. The cast, which includes yesterday's it-girl Piper Perabo, Anacondas: The Hunt For The Blood Orchid star Morris Chestnut, and Lost's Daniel Dae Kim, bumble from one nondescript location to the next, their infighting interrupted only by poorly choreographed action scenes in which they battle various toothy CGI creations. It's an undistinguished effort in which none of the actors distinguish themselves. But Perabo should do anything she can to regain A-list (or at least B-list) status. She's not cut out for this kind of work, if only because her screams sound like someone sneezing into a French horn. "European legends always have sad endings," one character observes early on. True enough, but so do actors who resort to this kind of desperate measure before hitting 30.