Writer-director Olatunde Osunsanmi devotes the final third of his claustrophobic, ultra-low budget horror picture to prodding susceptible viewers to cave in to their fear of the dark; his efforts might have been more effective if the first two-thirds weren't weighed down by repetitive point-of-view shots of rocky crawlspaces and the gabbiest round-the-campfire...read more
Writer-director Olatunde Osunsanmi devotes the final third of his claustrophobic, ultra-low budget horror picture to prodding susceptible viewers to cave in to their fear of the dark; his efforts might have been more effective if the first two-thirds weren't weighed down by repetitive point-of-view shots of rocky crawlspaces and the gabbiest round-the-campfire prologue ever. Four veteran American spelunkers and one novice travel to Kazakhstan's Kyzl Kum Desert to tackle an unexplored cave. Accompanied by three Russian cave-guides and carrying minimal equipment, the thrill seekers rappel down a daunting hole to test their mettle underground. But while the cavers see nothing more than a challenge, the cave carries religious significance for their guides; Kazakhstan locals believe that spirits, benign or malevolent, may dwell among the chasms. A different sort of ghost haunts the American group's leader, Gannon (Mustafa Shakir); on a previous expedition, he and his girlfriend were caught off guard when water cascaded into a cavern, and he failed to save her from drowning. His buddy, Ori (Andrew Caple-Shaw), has always wondered whether Gannon sacrificed her to save his own skin. A similar suspicion plagues Bailey (Sybil Temchen) and Miranda (Ogy Durham), who begin to question Gannon's decision making when their outing suddenly goes haywire. Someone — or something brutally rips apart the three guides and the rookie, writer Ambrose (Danny A. Jacobs). The four panic-stricken survivors scramble to find an exit, running into one dead end after another. How could sheets of rock shift so that passageways opened up or seal themselves off? As their batteries run low on power and fear floods their hearts, the cave-groupies risk a stand-off with their flesh-eating stalker, but the ones who escape being eaten discover that an even worse fate awaits them. By opting for a real curveball of an ending, Osunsanmi winds up making a mockery of his carefully designed supernatural build-up. One of 2005's three "don't go in the cave" movies (with the crackling UK THE DESCENT and the American THE CAVE), this "underground" movie benefits from a quasi-documentary flavor that recalls THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999), but viewers may come away with wrinkles from squinting to make out what's happening in scenes that appear to have been lit purely by the sputtering glow of safety-helmet lamps.
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