If you're not tall enough, it's back to the kiddie rides for you. Enjoy the teacups, all right?
For whatever reason, I was reminded of that all-important sign while I watched the generally atrocious subterranean horror movie, The Cave. I'll be blunt. If you're tall enough, if you can endure it, rent The Descent instead. It's my choice for the best horror film of 2006, and it will scare you to your horror-movie-loving core.
The Cave? Well, it's the equivalent of the kiddie ride version of The Descent.
This movie, directed by Bruce Hunt, begins in the Carpathian Mountains thirty years ago, as a team of thieves uncover a secret Templar church. All the iconography in the church, from the gargoyles to the relief on the tiled floor, show strange winged demons. You think this might be a warning to the interlopers. But it isn't.
Anyway, there's a CGI avalanche, and the thieves fall deep into a cave beneath the earth...
Flash forward to "now," as a team of generic, off-the-shelf characters embark on an expedition to explore a heretofore "virgin" underwater cave under the same Carpathian Mountains. We get a "lady scientist" (as they were once called, in 1970s movies...), some multi-ethnic cannon fodder, the helpful, loyal tough-guy African-American - here named Top - and two hunky brothers (Cole Hauser and Invasion's Eddie Cibrian...) who have some sort of deep sibling rivalry. That's so when they're not underwater, they have something to talk about.
The first several minutes of The Cave linger on exposition. I have to admit, I learned a lot. Do you know how many cave divers per year end up dead? One in fourteen. Do you know how long you can stay submerged with the film's high-tech re-breathers? Twenty-four hours. If this is sort of material is your cup of tea, you may just love The Cave.
If not, just settle in and let the wave of crap wash over you. A fun game to play while you're waiting for the next murder is to think about what movie The Cave is currently stealing from. There are a series of monster P.O.V. shots that are reminiscent of Predator (1987), but most dramatically, this film cribs the plot and characters of Pitch Black (2000). Now, Cole Hauser also starred in Pitch Black (as a strung-out junkie space marshal...) but he plays the tough-guy Vin Diesel/Riddick role here. He even gets "special vision" (like Riddick) while fighting the monsters, and protecting his team.
In a movie where the heroes are 2.4 miles inside a mountain, and one mile deep within the Earth, you'd think there might be some claustrophobia and tension (like in, say, The Descent...), but there's surprisingly little of that. The film is rated PG-13 for "intense creature violence," but there's not much intense anything here. I did get a case of the creepy-crawlies in one scene involving a cavern filled with scorpions. Grossly, they're crawling around at eye-level. Ick.
In The Cave, you end up seeing some nice aerial photography over the mountains, and there's some good, well-photographed sequences in the "closed" eco-system where a "primeval" life form thrives, but going back to my amusement park metaphor, the film is like a walking tour of the old Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. Now you're on the rapids, now you're underwater, now you're on a mountainside, now you're on an ice shelf, and now you're in Hell. Movie hell, that is. Particularly after one of the most seriously wrong-headed and insulting final sting-in-the-tale/tail moments I've ever had the misfortune to watch.
There are so many diverse environments on display in The Cave it's more a geologic travelogue than a horror movie. And I had to ask myself: how do these people keep finding their way back to each other after they separate? It just never seems particularly plausible. The cave divers, perhaps (except that 1 in 14...), but the scientists and documentary filmmakers? How do they find their way around down there, in the dark, with swooping parasitic dragons picking them off?
I know this isn't nice, but I was rooting for the swooping parasitic dragons...