By CHRIS HEWITT
ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS
Tips for directors of suspense films: 1. Watch "Rear Window" and "Seven." 2. Apply what you've learned.
It's Suspense 101: If someone is in danger, the director needs to cut back and forth between them and the danger until we're left in a puddle of nerves. But most of today's directors settle for rapidly edited, confusing images that push us out of the story instead of drawing us in.
"The Cave" fits in that category. There's a scene of a rock climber, dangling near death at the end of a rope, that is so muddled we can't even tell what's going on, much less become involved in it. But it compensates for its lack of technical skill with scare tactics that are bluntly, viciously effective.
What it's about
The concept is simple. A team of scientists, who look more like panelists at a convention of underwear models, explores a cave that is purported to hold ancient secrets but actually holds a hottie-eating creature. You'd think scientists would turn and run at the first sign of a dangerous alien, but these spelunkheads stick around long enough to be picked off, one by one (like TV's "Survivor," "The Cave" knows the value of shifting alliances, the threat of elimination and chiseled torsos).
Along the way, "The Cave" intriguingly pits the idea of loyalty to the group against loyalty to oneself.
It's not original, but, unlike some of this summer's movies ("The Island," "Stealth"), "The Cave" knows its place. Its job is to deliver a few jolty thrills and a couple of laughs and wrap things up before it starts to get too dumb.
That's Ending 101, and it's a lesson "The Cave" has learned well.