Caved In: Prehistoric Terror
Christopher Atkins as John Palmer
Colm Meaney as Vincent
Angela Featherstone as Samantha Palmer
Monica Birladeanu as Sophie
David Palffy as Marcel
Chelan Simmons as Emily Palmer
Stevie Mitchell as Miles Palmer
Directed by Richard Pepin
On the next Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Chief Miles O’Brien fights giant rhinoceros beetles! Well, that would still be better than that stupid baseball episode. Instead, we get another average SciFi Channel movie. Unlike some of their other movies, this one is not so terrible you want to gouge out your eyes and ears to become blind and deaf to the world. Now, that doesn’t make this movie any good. It is just as far from good as it is from bad in many places. In fact, at some points it’s laughable, and several of the characters are never in any danger at all, as the movie is incapable of doing anything inventive like kill off a member of the main family. The problem with the predictability is the film becomes uninteresting. While not committing the ultimate SciFi Channel sin of being boring, it is not anything you’d sit around and catch the second running of. Watch, rinse, forget. Not many films are brave enough to specialize an obscure beetle, but I bet the writer saw a special on the Discovery Channel that mentioned that rhinoceros beetles are proportionally the strongest animals on the planet. Some gears started to crank, electricity began to flow, the light bulb started to flicker…Bingo: make them huge! That also somehow makes them prehistoric, and meat eaters. Since real rhinoceros beetles only eat fruit and rotting wood, they are only dangerous to Jack Pumpkinhead from The Marvelous Land of Oz. He is nowhere to be found, though it would have made the film that much cooler. Instead of that weird fun, we have to put up with the Palmers. Not the Palmers from 24, but these are some professional outdoors adventure guides who show rich people around in the outside while overcoming the troubles of modern families like homework and teenage girls hogging the bathroom.
Caved In: Prehistoric Terror follows the Type B SciFi Channel monster movie formula: Large Swarms of similar creatures with a Giant Queen terrorize a group (similar films: Pterodactyl and Snakehead Terror.) Type A SciFi Channel monster movie formula: A singular or small group (4 or less) of monsters terrorize a group(similar films: Frankenfish and Manticore.) Type C SciFi Channel monster movie formula: A swarm of monsters with no queen terrorize a group (similar films: Komodo vs. Cobra and Curse of the Komodo.) Now that we’ve outlined the basic three plots, we can jump into the film itself, starting with the characters.
Okay now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to the recap! It’s Switzerland 1948 at the Arveyes Salt Mines, just about at quitting time, except the foreman wants one more tunnel blown open. This must be pre-union, as a miner objects, and blows the whistle signaling the end of the day. The foreman and the miner begin fist-fighting (I guess worker’s rights don’t exist here at all! Where is Norma Rae when you need her?) The foreman tosses the miner into the tunnel entrance he wanted blown, which is just a pile of rocks blocking the opening (you’re going to waste expensive dynamite on that? Hardly.) The miner’s fall knocks a hole in the entrance, and reveals a room full of emeralds shining like someone picked up a can of the cheap glow in the dark paint at the Hobby Lobby and splattered it around the cavern. The foreman enters, in awe, and gets gored by a giant rhinoceros beetle that was just hanging out in the room waiting for miners. Beetles then start popping out from all over the cave system, which makes one wonder why no one ran into any of them before. Miners begin to panic and flee for the elevator shaft, but the bugs have a field day chomping on hapless victims. Again, where is the union? The only miner to make it to the lift is the insubordinate one from the beginning, but he loses a foot by a particularly fast beetle. Someone below in the cave is still alive, and sets off explosives that collapse the entrance. The miner pulls out his copy of the map with the emerald location marked, not caring in the slightest that if he doesn’t cut off the rapid blood loss from his missing foot he’ll bleed to death. Begin credits.
Now, that whole opening scene was full of problems. One thing we never learn is what do the bugs eat? They can’t just be sitting around waiting for humans to stroll in. There is a section where smaller bugs wander around, but these guys are never seen eating them. Plus, it’s now modern day 2006, and no one has reentered the caves yet. A footless guy refuses to sell his land to French thug Marcel. Marcel surrenders. No, wait, he stabs the Old Man’s hand with a pen, and his assistant Stephan cuts the hand off. Now the one-handed, one-footed guy can only count to eleven while naked! He still won’t sign, so they just stab him in the back. They’ll leave the body by the nearby lake because they old man wanted to spend his last days there. Now, since this guy is missing his foot, you would naturally assume that he is the surviving miner, but later it is revealed that the miner was Marcel’s grandfather, who gives him an emerald as proof. So why would this guy have a missing foot? Two reasons: 1 – They rewrote the script halfway through, or 2 – Marcel just killed his own grandfather that didn’t recognize him despite giving Marcel his most prized possessions. The first is probably why, but the second makes the movie somewhat better. Since the rest of the film is poorly plotted as well, we’re stuck with option number one.
Let’s go visit the Palmers! The four family members are coming back from their latest wilderness guide adventure, and daughter Emily is being her usual spoiled brat self, talking back to her father in front of the guests. Father John Palmer (the dad, not a priest) finally shuts her up by telling her they are going on vacation in Greece next. Or so he thinks, because he gets a message from Chief Miles O’Brien soon after, and they set up a meeting at a local restaurant. Both Chief O’Brien and his babe Sophie are there, and try to entice John Palmer to lead them on an expedition to a collapsed mine area. They fail to mention the emeralds or rhinoceros beetles (though we find out it is because those two don’t know about the insects) and want John to leave right away. He refuses, as it is vacation time, until they pull out a fat wad of cash. John is suspicious but agrees as money eases his unease. Bratty Emily is back to complaining “I don’t want to be a tour guide for bored rich people, I want to be the bored rich people!” Well, that takes money, like the fat wad daddy just brought home, you useless bimbo! She won’t even be working, for her it will be like an extended vacation, as they’ll be going to Greece right afterwards.
In Switzerland, the Palmers arrive at the house formerly owned by the Old Man, which now houses the members of the expedition. In addition to the previously met Chief O’Brien, Sophie and Marcel, we are introduced to Carlo, Hanz, Ion, and Stephan. Stephan, chopper of hands, will be taking care of the rest of the Palmers while John is below ground. Sinister camera work here and daughter Emily immediately begins making puppy eyes at him, proving herself to be even more useless. The rest of the goons are pretty one-dimensional, no descriptions even help. Chief O’Brien and Marcel manage to get into a spat over who is in charge, as Marcel brought the map and Chief O’Brien brought all the money. The group will go inside by a side entrance that isn’t caved in so it shouldn’t have prehistoric terror. Chief O’Brien spared no expense, outfitting the team with laser pulse rifles to blast through rocks. I guess writer Michael Konyves knows all about spelunking having previously written Descent, SciFi Channel’s The Core/Jules Verne rip-off, and is informed on laser pulse mining. I’m just grateful he didn’t equip the team with a nuclear bomb to restart the core of the Earth that had been stopped due to being weighed down by rhinoceros beetle eggs. I wonder if those laser pulse rifles will come in handy later, also allowing scenes that resemble a third grader’s interpretation of scenes from Aliens. Son Miles wants to tag along, but is told no.
They are off, and into the cave. Luckily, the electric lights and elevator still work after 50 years. That’s Swiss engineering! Old Man must have been paying a fortune each month in electric bills, but I bet GE would love to get a hold of all those light bulbs that are still functional 50 years later. John leads several of the team down to the lower level on the elevator, then comes up for trip number two. The movie felt it needed some tension here, and this elevator ride runs into the problem of the elevator door opening, and one of the goons almost falling out. Only John thinks to grab him and pull him back in, the rest of them just stare like they’re on quaaludes. So no one died, so no tension. Caved in, prehistoric boredom. They don’t just stand around gawking, and actually go caving, crawling through a cavern so small they have to go on their hands and knees, making one wonder why the mining company would build a shaft so small to connect the back door to their mine. The small shaft is also peppered with tiny holes of its own, which are decidedly not man made, because the characters decided they weren’t. Suddenly, dozens of bugs the size of a shoe come pouring out of the holes! These bugs do nothing but crawl around, but it’s still enough to get everyone screaming and crawling at full speed to the end of the tunnel. Again, no one dies, no one’s even in any trouble.
Miles the son is wandering around outside of the house and heads into the woods, finding a mine shaft and managing to fall into it. It would be fun to say that Miles fell miles to his death, but it’s just a few feet and now he’s trapped in the cave. The electricity and elevator still works in this part of the cave as well, so Miles can easily take the elevator down to the deeper levels. The electricity also allows brightly lit sets so we can clearly see the actors, which is good in that respect, but also negates any and all tension from being trapped in an enclosed space with giant killer bugs. Miles heads to an area with a long crevice that must be crossed by a rope bridge. Careful….careful…D’oh! Falling planks mean there’s a huge gap in the bridge, and Miles can’t get across, unless he remembers his Star Wars and Tarzan. Yep, Miles swings across the crevice thanks to an anchor gun and rope! I guess we missed the scene where Miles knocked out the rhinoceros beetle and stole his uniform, rescued the Princess, and then is returning to Docking Bay 327.
For the main group, the next section is blocked off, so it’s Rock Shooting Time! Blast those rocks with your lasers, men, as this film strays closer to Star Wars for a few fleeting seconds before never resembling it again. Yes, I’m going to get my money’s worth on the comparisons. Two goons Carlo and Hanz start blasting away. Back in the house, Mom Samantha has finally noticed Miles is missing, having to focus all her energy in keeping her daughter from doing the horizontal lambada with their hand-chopping babysitter Stephan. Samantha gets the two to help her look for Miles. Underground, Marcel has wandered away from the group with Ion, they are both smoking and despise each other. Ion is bald, just like Marcel, and from the sound of it is Chief O’Brien’s friend. Marcel punches Ion, causing him to fall down the crevice they just happened to be smoking next to, and Ion is now hanging on by just his fingers. Marcel steps on them, causing Ion to fall to his death. Okay, not his death, as Ion pulls out his lighter to look around, the light continually blown out by a rhinoceros beetle that then pounces on him. Back up top, there is no sign of Miles, but Mom sees the dead body of the previous owner, and quickly figures out what is going on. She can’t act just yet, as we jump back below to the cavers, who are looking at the dead body of Ion down the crevice and arguing about whether they should leave or go on. John wants to leave immediately, but everyone else tells him no. Stephan radios Marcel to inform him of the missing Miles, and that daughter Emily wants to talk to her father. Marcel agrees, but only after threatening John with death if he talks about what has happened. After that, Marcel tells Stephan in French to tie up the women, but Stephan gets a tree branch to the head from Mom Samantha, who can also speak French. Stephan surrenders to unconsciousness, and the girls tie him up and then head to the house.
Underground, Marcel tells John the story of the emeralds and giant bugs, revealing the surviving miner was his grandfather, who gave the map and emerald to Marcel. Chief O’Brien calls this a hit and run raid. GIANT BUG ATTACK!! Undeveloped goon character Carlos gets his arm lopped off by rhinoceros beetles that have horns that are somehow round yet razor sharp on their sides. Between the eating of Carlos and the previous eating of Ion, we must now talk about the rhinoceros beetles’ eating habits. For being trapped in a cave for 50 years, they sure don’t like to finish their meals, leaving half eaten bodies lying all over the place. The special effects of the beetles eating is just putting some cow intestines over the actor lying like he’s dead, and then shaking the resin model beetle body over him to simulate eating. At all other times, the beetles are pure CGI, meaning they are made of bits, but only take a few bytes of their victims. That is possibly the worst joke on this site, I hope you enjoy it. The team is not only armed with the laser guns, they have regular guns as they are all villains. The laser guns allow the effects department to do shots of the bugs being hit and exploding into goo. Not goo that gets all over the actors shooting, but goo that disintegrates into nothingness. But goo nevertheless! John is unarmed, except for his emergency beacon gun! Why you need an emergency beacon gun when you’re in a cave and a gun to shoot a beacon way up in the air is probably useless isn’t explained, but it sure helps us because it creates a new character, the rhinoceros bug we will be calling Blinky, as he’s shot with the emergency beacon and it gets embedded in his back, but it doesn’t stop the beetle at all, and now makes him stand out from the rest of the CGI crowd thanks to flashing lights and faint sounds. Seriously, the emergency beacon is so low in volume it probably can only be heard by dogs. John gets the classic line that makes this movie: “Your plan’s not just coming apart; it’s being ripped apart by giant bugs!” Okay, maybe not that classic, but it’s the best line in the movie and it’s all we got. So live with it, or be ripped apart by giant bugs.
Marcel vetoes leaving despite their losses, but the discussion is cut short by a cave in! Finally, we get the source of the first half of the title, as the cave in happens. For a few seconds. It does more damage above ground, as huge CGI crevices appearing on the surface, allowing CGI rhinoceros beetles to escape outside, where they can freely menace the rest of the Palmer family. So they do, and Emily and Samantha barricade themselves inside the lake house and find a gun, which they use to blast one of the creatures to rhinoceros beetle heaven. Back down below, Miles hears Blinky’s warning beacon, and thinks that it’s help. He stumbles across destroyed bug legs, but isn’t attacked like he should have been. We then jump from the pointless Miles interlude to the main group where Marcel is still talking about continuing the raid, and Hanz is agreeing with him. Chief O’Brien and John both think they are crazy. The mine tunnels are getting colder as they move deeper, so John tells everyone to keep hydrated. Marcel laughs that John is still concerned for their safety, so John stabs him….in the canteen! This causes one of those “everyone pulls a gun on each other” scenes that every director who’s seen Reservoir Dogs puts in their movies subconsciously. This time, rhinoceros beetles attacking prevent everyone from shooting each other. Well, almost, as Marcel shoots Chief O’Brien dead. NOOOOOO!!!!! Not the Chief! You can’t kill O’Brien! What about Keiko and the kids? Ben Sisko will hunt down Marcel and kill him dead. Because of bad writing, the rest of the group doesn’t end up all shooting each other to death right then and there, and beetles come closer, lead by Blinky.
STEAM ATTACK!!! Steam that exists somehow despite the mine being cold (buh?) starts blasting out from holes in the walls, trapping the team. They skip their way through the vents shooting steam out at random intervals, while the bugs have taken to fighting among themselves for a chance to have some human dinner. Or they could just go after the several other bodies lying around, some of which are only 10% eaten (and 0% eaten if it’s Chief O’Brien!) Caved In: Steam Terror!
STEPHAN ATTACK!!! Stephan the evil goon bursts into the house up top where the girls are and recaptures them, only to have his head sliced in half by a rhinoceros beetle a few seconds later. Mom Samantha manages to get in a “splitting headache” joke, which is groan-worthy but strangely charming. Samantha also starts using the shotgun on invading beetles, while the useless daughter Emily just screams and screeches. Ignoring the interesting action, the movie decides to go back to Miles wandering down below in the cave, as he manages to fall off a ledge and yet not to his death, landing on what is left of Ion, which is a lot. Small tiny bugs crawl out of Ion’s mouth, trying to horrify us with bugness but instead making a biologist like me wonder more about the ecosystem of the cave. Do the tiny bugs get eaten by the shoe-sized bugs, who in turn are eaten by the rhino beetles? Because the rhino beetles look far too big to survive on the shoe-sized ones. There must be a missing link in the food chain. Sadly, it is never revealed, this mythical 3 foot insect. Back to the film, the rest of the group finds Miles, who is somehow on the other side of the rope bridge again. John is too heavy to go get his son, so Miles must walk across. One problem, Miles is a big wuss. Miles won’t even go across as beetles attack! I guess Miles’s fear of reenacting Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom on the bridge is more powerful than his fear of being eaten by giant bugs. He overcomes his Temple of Doom fear, as the bridge breaks when he gets on it and he has to reenact the climbing up the side of the cliff portion, except without Mola Ram trying to rip out his heart. Our loss.
Immediately after that, they run across the cavern where all the emeralds are. John wants to leave as there is an exit nearby that is blocked, but Marcel is too busy stuffing emeralds in his pockets. I was surprised no one called the room the Emerald City, as that would be the obvious name. The remaining group (John, Miles, and Sophie) dig a hole as Marcel and Hanz come up to pay them their reward…in bullet dollars!!! Instead of instantly killing them, Marcel has to give a speech, which is enough to allow Marcel to be ripped in half by beetles! Marcel even shoots Hanz while dying, but the beetle is driven off by John. Hanz isn’t dead yet, but it too hurt to move, so will then reenact the part of Starship Troopers where the wounded guy shoots bugs until he blows himself up. Except Hanz doesn’t have a bomb to do that and just dies while the rest escape. Which also happened in Aliens, not that this film has an identical plot or something.
Escape to the next room, which just happens to be a cavern full of lots of rhinoceros beetle eggs! Plus a Queen! Who is covered in workers who crawl around her. Hey, this is also very similar to Starship Troopers, what gives? At least they added eggs due to rhinoceros beetles suddenly becoming a hive culture (they aren’t in real life.) Up top, bugs still menacing the girls. Yawn. Back down below, Sophie manages to fall on some eggs, squishing them and angering the Queen. They must kill the Queen, due to video game rules where killing the queen kills all the workers and destroys the enemy base. Luckily, they have some bombs. Or dynamite. I’m not sure where they got it, either they brought it with them to blow holes in things (wasn’t that what the laser guns were for?) or it’s 50 year old dynamite from the miners, which mean it won’t work. Up top, bugs are continuing to attack Samantha and Emily; each time Samantha blasts a bug with her shotgun bug goo is thrown onto Emily. Someone is getting their jollies here, probably the director but it could be the writers who are into bukkake (or bugkake!)
Back down below, John puts dynamite in his flare gun, and shoots it into the Queen’s chest. Why they provoke the Queen first and then set some charges afterwards is a mystery to logic, but the script uses it to make the Queen screech loudly, and all the bugs on the surface hear it (thanks to the radio walkie-talkies) and return to defend her, saving the girls up top. John and his group finally get done setting up the rest of the dynamite and then blow up the entire cavern. The group down below then escapes to the surface, and the family is saved!
The Palmers are reunited, but none worse for the wear. Sophie gives them a sack full of emeralds, and they can finally afford to go on a vacation! The End! So the Palmers will blow all their dough on a big vacation, rendering just as broke as before, ready for Caved In II: Rhinoceros Bugaloo.
Caved In: Prehistoric Terror (CIPT) is not a terrible movie, but it’s not anything to write home about. Nor is it anything to write an email about. In fact, writing this recap was far too much to write about this film, as it’s really not much of anything. It’s a good example of the type of cookie cutter SciFi Channel film that the network has in spades. Just replace the Rhinoceros Beetles with some other animal, and change the cave setting to a relevant location, and you have everything you need to make your own SciFi Channel film. Giant weevils, huge roaches, big zebras, menacing giraffes, terrible shrews, bees with scorpion tails, frogs with laser beam eyes, flying snorks, all of these things will potentially be a SciFi Channel movies soon, with the exact same script as this. Except Robert Beltran will star, and it will take place in a football stadium. If anyone making SciFi Channel films is reading this (hardly): MORE MONSTER DEATHS!!! Chief Miles O’Brien should have died by bug hands, as should many others. Stop with the crazy bad guy killing characters, we want monster deaths! I didn’t watch Caved In: Some French Guy Terror!
Rated 5/10 (Splitting headache, Bug goo, steam attack, The only person real rhinoceros beetles would attack, emerald city)