Film Critic's Corner

Well, it's been an exciting time for the caving biased film goer in recent months with not just one cave related film but two (not sure what percentage increase that is on zero…!). Both films this year were aimed at the gore-fest genre (not predictable…) but offered varied quality from the laughable to downright dire.

So onto the first film 'The Descent' (18)

(I will point out at this point that there aren't just spoilers in here but the entire plot….)

The film opens with reasonable promise for the blokes with 4 girls white water rafting down a river in very tight wetsuits, but sadly this is where most of the common sense is left behind. Our group of intrepid girls (with issues) meets up a year later in the US to go caving down a 'well known level 3 trip' armed with only the essentials:

  • A rope per person per pitch
  • Hilti bolting drill
  • Ice axe each
  • Number of climbing 'friends'
  • A large number of hand held flares
  • A 'security guard' size Maglite each hanging from their harnesses
  • A severe lack of clothing (sleeveless thin wetsuits)

So come to the surface issue number 1. They hate each other, but being nice they don't admit this until later. To prove how hard the fearless leader is she decides to take the merry band down a previously unknown cave near the correct one which has a very hard-to-find surface entrance similar in size to that of Pant Mawr.

Our girls descend into the gloom not aware they are in unknown territory into some very good - and realistic - cave filming for the first part of the film.

We'll catch up with the group when they come to the first issue, a cave-in whilst squeezing through some tight passage: well shot and there's genuine fear when one girl has a panic attack thinking she is stuck. The roof obliges the script writers by eventually falling in and trapping most of their equipment - on they must go.

Quiz Question: What would you do when presented with a 30' bottomless chasm to cross?

  1. Use the Hilti Drill and bolt your way across
  2. Use your remaining rope and see if you can reach the bottom and continue.
  3. Free climb across the loose ceiling to the other side carrying the Hilti drill, large Maglite and other equipment hanging from your belt.

I'll leave that one as a little mystery but this girl probably has the upper body strength of an ox!

So into trouble our intrepid (and slightly less clothed) girls go and they start to see glimpses of the weird white cave beasties living in the cave. These turn out to be a lost group of humans that have adapted to live in the cave and eat anything that wanders past… including scantily clad female cavers.

Around this point all of the 'I hate you' issues come to the surface as the girls try to find another way out in small groups. Our sleeveless leader becomes the evil girl willing to do anything to get out and one of the quiet ones turns into a Sigourney Weaver clone.

One by one they get knocked off by the ghoulies including an impressive ice axe through the neck of one girl by our evil girl (you knew there was a reason they brought them).

Do they get out? Well for once a film ends more realistically with all but one being knocked off by either the white ones or each other. Only one escapes but does she?

During the whole film the look and feel of the cave is excellent, not suffering from the usual Star Trek floors (or flaws) which is impressive as I understand that most of the film was shot in a studio at Pinewood. One the whole, response from non-cavers is good and you probably won't regret a viewing.

One non-caving friend (a horror fan) described the film as 'really scary', and said everyone in the cinema was on the edge of their seat. This made us feel guilty for spoiling others' fun by giggling throughout.

Best Point: Girls in tight rubber!

Worst Point: The stalactite made of spaghetti.

And now our second film 'The Cave' (12A)

The makers of this film had obviously seen the recent TV documentary on the Yuccatan as the film is based on the world of cave diving with some very impressive underwater caving shots.

Umm, I'd like to say 'this film was great' but, to be honest, IT'S AWFUL! Instead of a nice write up I'll give you some of the more interesting points:

  • Testosterone - the script and every testosterone poisoned bloke in this film has the stuff oozing from everywhere. Lines like 'this is a serious cave - bring a knife' don't help.
  • If you get the 'bug' in the cave your irises get an interesting 'cross' effect. Despite the obvious large river running through the cave none of the locals seems affected.
  • Token 'hard' females including scantily clad 'looker' and cute 'scientist'.
  • The monsters turn out to be mutated British cavers… like an average weekend at the BCRA then!
  • One of the (un-mutated) cavers has amazing Spiderman like abilities.
  • The world's only flammable cave… bet you didn't know rock could burn. And explode.
  • Blatant 'we'd like to make a sequel' ending.

This film as a total turkey. Don't see it.

Best Point: Underwater photography from Mexico.

Worst Point: Pretty stiff competition. Every scene looks like a cheap film set. Now you know what happens to old Star Trek sets.

Richard Vidler