Modest Monster Movie Scores With Humble Craftsmanship

Dark water: The Cave
photo: Cos Aelenei

Spare and single-minded, The Cave is an insistently entertaining piece of pulp. Dispensing with backstory in the credit sequence, it barrels swiftly toward the eponymous maw, where our group of strapping young explorers soon find themselves in monstrous peril. Cole Hauser leads the brow-furrowing troupe with laconic intensity, remaining impossibly calm as the alien cum pterodactyl slobbers all over their wet suits. Quips fall flat and personalities are nonexistent, but no matter: The kick here is in the tension and release. Bodies flop over rapids, scoot up cliffs, and tumble into a molten Tanguy landscape—shot with economy and a feel for physical pain. The settings become more imposing than the easily flammable beasts: A placid lake ominously lit with flares, a grotesquely gnarled mountain, and a high-vaulted underground cathedral all test our intrepid heroes' ingenuity. Piper Perabo's seesawing near-escape from said mountain displays sinewy agility and rag doll fragility that are filmed with humble directness. One is so grateful for such craft that even the sequel-baiting ending can be forgiven.

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