During the Cold War, a vaguely defined group breaks into a Romanian church and the cavern beneath it for vaguely defined reasons. They accidentally trigger a landslide, trapping themselves beneath the earth. Jump forward thirty years, and the cavern has been rediscovered. A team of cave divers headed up by Cole Hauser descends into the depths, and soon find themselves up against vicious bat-winged monsters. A parasite enters into Hauser’s blood, and he slowly starts to transform into one the…e beasts himself, raising the question as to whether he will retain his humanity long enough to save the people for whom he is responsible.
Not enough is done with the potentially interesting idea of Hauser’s metmorphosis, and for that matter, not enough is shown of the monsters. What we do is rather disappointing, as they resemble a somewhat more upmarket version of the 1959 Beast from Haunted Cave. Furthermore, the characters are all straight from the B-Movie Standard Issue Catalogue. And yet, for all that, the flick is entertaining, charging along at a fine old pace and generating a decent amount of tension. There are much, much better monster movies out there, and if viewers want a first-rate treatment of a similar concept, they should turn off the DVD player and read Jeff Long’s The Descent. Still, decent popcorn fodder.
Not small part of the film’s entertainment value is generated by the audio track, which is nothing short of superb. Zero distortion on the dialogue, which is also never drowned out by the effects, and here is where the track really shines. The surround elements are extremely active, with excellent placement and left-right separation, and constant creepy sounds keeping the audience on its toes. Plenty of very loud and alarming booms here. The music is big and loud, and in fact the entire track operates at an impressive volume. The bass is deep, rumbling and ominous. The one problem is the occasionally inappropriate use of the rear speakers for a few effects.
The picture is also very strong. The image is perfectly sharp all the way through. There are a couple of shots that are a bit grainy, but only a couple. There is no visible edge enhancement, and the colours are terrific. The contrasts are especially noticeable as we shift from the gray prologue to the brilliance of present day (the blues are particularly notable here). The blacks are very deep, and the picture is never murky. Anytime you can’t tell what’s going on, blame the director and the editing, not the transfer.
Director Bruce Hunt, producer Andrew Mason and co-producer/FX supervisor James McQuade handle one commentary, and writers Michael Steinberg and Tegan West take care of the other. Interestingly, there is less focus on the nuts and bolts and more on the story and artistic goals of the film than one is used to with this sort of thing. There are two featurettes. “Into the Cave” is a look at the underwater photography, while “Designing Evolution” takes us to Tatopoulos studios for the creation of the monsters. There are also nine trailers (for other films). The menu’s intro and transition to the film are animated and scored, while the main screen is scored.
Is it good? Well, not really. But is it entertaining? Oh yes, definitely.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentaries
- “Into the Cave” Featurette
- “Designing Evolution: Tatopoulos Studios” Featurette