A quick header for all the house hunters out there; if you manage to get a country house for much less than it should be on the real estate market, you better be prepared for some demonic shenanigans. I feel like this should be obvious to everyone and not just those of us who are obsessed with horror movies but here we go again with another house of evil secrets in the new Irish haunting by Brendan Muldowney, The cave.
Keira (Elisha Cuthbert) and her husband Brian (Eoin Macken) move their family to such a gigantic country home after a deal comes along that was too good to pass up. And while the layman might expect a few problems with old wiring or leaky plumbing, horror fans will certainly understand that this means evil lurks in every corner of this beautiful abode, but especially in The cave. Along the ride are their daughters, Ellie (Abby Fitz), a teenager upset at being ripped away from her friends, and preteen Steven (Dylan Fitzmaurice Brady), who is just trying to adjust to her new surroundings as best she can. he can.
As they initially explore the house, they come across a locked door leading to The cave. Bad omen number one. A key is easily snagged on the frame and on initial inspection it doesn’t look like much, but later in the evening when the parents go out and Ellie and Steven are left alone it becomes their worst nightmare . Following a mysterious power outage – old house, old wiring, no big deal, right? – Ellie disappears into The cave trying to flip the circuit breakers and restore power. The police don’t take this too seriously, Ellie has a habit of running away, but Keira knows something is wrong, and it has to do with this house.
Mom begins to lose her mind, delving deeper and deeper into the house’s absurdly diabolical history that includes Hebrew symbology, biblical demonology, advanced reckoning, and a history of disappearances. At least one of them should have appeared in the auction list, right? I mean it must be illegal not to disclose satanic rites driven by advanced calculations when transferring real estate. That’s enough to drive a girl crazy, which is basically what Keira does very early on in the movie. This is where my enthusiasm starts to wane, as Cuthbert’s performance kicks in very early and really never deviates. Lots of fans will appreciate it, after all she lost her daughter, but on screen it reads flat, which doesn’t work for me.
There’s a lot of awkwardness when it comes to the evil nature of the house which also feels very forced. The evil math equation that sets it all in motion is still there, and while I’m pretty good with numbers, I’m pretty sure it would take something a little more complex than what we gives us to get the results we do in The cave. However, if you are curious, you will certainly be able to recite it by heart at the time of the credits because it is repeated until nausea throughout the film, I do not really know to what end. Many people find math intimidating, but scary? Not really.
Just when you think it’s all falling apart The cave shifts into high gear in the final fifteen minutes, which almost makes it worth it. A really fun chase sequence set in the bowels of the house unleashes a Fulci-esque deluge of imagery and ideas as well as a really fun creature that we get some solid and awesome looks at. The film no doubt borrows liberally from haunted house lore, but the two most obvious sources are Fulci’s. House near the cemetery and the afterlife, and since these are two of my favorites, these aspects really worked for me. It lacks gore and shock, trying to make up for it with atmosphere and mystery, but I think a bit of shock would have helped a lot to balance the first two acts better with the more impressive third.
There is almost nothing new in The cave, the haunted house has been made to death, but it can be done effectively enough to make us forget we’re watching a story we’ve seen a million times before. While The cave adds some interesting and innovative touches to the old formula, they are never exploited hard enough to make it feel new. It’s a bold choice to play in the haunted house sandbox, I just wish they’d embarked on something a little more exciting than them, it all feels very safe. Thankfully that final streak sends it just over the line to warrant a recommendation from me, but it’s a close call, your mileage may vary.
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