InsidePulse DVD Review – The Cavern

The Cavern
(Also known as WithIN)

Directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi

Sybil Temtchine
Mustafa Shakir
Ogy Durham
Andrew Caple-Shaw
Danny A. Jacobs

Release Date: July 18th, 2006
Running Time: 81 minutes
Rated: R

So, we have a lottery each month in the IP super secret writers’ forum wherein the movie staff is placed in an order by which we pick that month’s DVD releases. Sometimes the selection is such that one selects a film that he (we don’t have any shes) knows nothing about, nor has even heard of. Such is the case with myself and The Cavern. At the time of the selection, I couldn’t even find a proper IMDB entry for the film.

Now this is an exciting proposition. How often does one get to see a movie so fresh? (As such, I will make all attempts to avoid spoilers in the proper review section of this DVD.) Nowadays, trailers are routinely full of spoilers or important plot points. (Although in today’s world where most horror movies seem to be remakes I guess this might be a moot point.)

This excitement was mitigated somewhat when I saw the DVD. Clearly Sony was marketing this thing as a rip-off of The Cave, a film which was unwatchably lousy. But hey, eXistenZ was marketed as a Matrix ripoff, and is a remarkably better movie than any Keanu vehicle.

Upon actually watching the film, the first thing that came to my mind is this:

“If you want to break up with your girlfriend, make her watch The Cavern with you.”

Now, I won’t guarantee that S.O.s will automatically leave you if you show them this film, but the possibility is definitely there, and is definitely strong. At the very least, be prepared to be repeatedly punched and asked the question, “What is wrong with you?” The Cavern is just that kind of movie.

Is it bad? Yes. It isn’t quite as bad as The Cave, and it does have a lot more horror credibility than its sister spelunking flick. The Cavern is R-rated, a no-budget movie with the non-Hollywood single vision of an independent writer/director, rough around the edges in throwback ’70s fashion. But the problem is that said “vision” isn’t really worth watching.

The Cavern tells the story of a group of “Cavers” with video-game style names (Domingo, Gannon, Ori, Ambrose, etc) spelunking the unknown out in Central Asia. Naturally, they get trapped inside the cave system, there is a monster exterminating them one by one, and their flashlights flicker on and off because of the environment’s “electro-magnetism.”

Let’s just take a look at the good and the bad with this flick.

The Good
– an unpolished, non-studio feel.
– the central and (probably) strongest character is black.
– two relatively uncommon twists, and an unforgettable ending.

The Bad
– The majority of the film is shot handheld, poorly, in order to create a sense of what the director calls “the randomness of caves.” To increase this discombobulation the film was occasionally turned UPSIDE DOWN in the editing room.
– there is only one memorable shot in the whole picture, and it isn’t very good. (The shot being, Ambrose desperately drilling into the cave wall, from the point of view of… the wall.)
– Numerous and sizable plot-holes.
– extended sequences in complete darkness.
– dialogue full of lines like, “Let’s cave!” I was kind of hoping that they were talking about “cave” as in undermine. Like, “let’s give in!” Sadly, no.
– acting befitting a no-budget movie.
– no use of the word spelunker. C’mon, “let’s go spelunking!” would be an awesome catchphrase.

But the biggest problem with the flick is that of the third act. The third act not only shifts the entire focus of the movie, but makes one question the point of the entire first hour. When all is said and done, the climax of the flick is about the decision of a newly introduced character. It is entirely out of left field, with no build-up, foreshadowing, and no meaningful connection to the rest of the story.

Now, I can see this thing getting a cult following as it is bad in a cult-y sort of way. As such, I will provide the Unofficial Drive-in totals, but these things are SPOILER HEAVY.

Unofficial Drive-in Totals:
7 dead bodies
0 breasts
1 motor vehicle chase
gratuitous campfire stories of dead girlfriend
gratuitous Indian lore
gratuitous horizontal “spelunking”
multiple spears through chests
torso splitting
1 little boy burn victim
1 main character rotisserie barbecued
accidental cannibalism
monster rape


The Extras

We get a director’s commentary from Olatunde Osunsanmi. He seems like a nice enough fella, thankful to be working, and without much interesting to say.

There is also something called “Within the Cavern – A Video Journal”, which basically consists of home movies of college friends working on a movie. The whole thing is made worth watching by opening with one of the actor’s cars ON FIRE in the parking lot. Good times.

“Caverns of the Mojave: an Expedition with Real Cavers” is somehow less interesting to me than watching bread toast. I can’t stand spelunking. Why do I keep on reviewing spelunking movies?

The Storyboard Gallery is more well done than the movie itself. By flipping through the boards at random, one can get a better idea at what is going on in The Cavern than by actually watching The Cavern.

And there are some trailers.

InsidePulse’s Ratings for The Cavern
(OUT OF 10)