The Cavern is one of the few non-all-black horror movies to be directed by a black person (Olatunde Osunsanmi), joining the ranks of films like Demon Knight and, depending on your point of view, The Fantastic Four. (The main actor and actress in the film — Mustafa Shakir and Ogy Durham — are also black.) Although the cover art and title hint at this being a rip-off of The Cave, its dark claustrophobia and less-than-Hollywood-ending are more in line with The Descent, so if anything, at least it had the foresight to rip off the superior film. I’d actually even give The Cavern the nod over the popcorn shlock of The Cave, making it the second-best spelunking horror film of 2005!
Writer/director Osunsanmi, who’d move on to higher-budget fare like The Fourth Kind and Evidence, creates an atmosphere that’s cramped, murky and realistic, eschewing an overwrought Hollywood soundtrack in favor of natural sounds and camera movements that heighten the suspense. The kinetic camerawork, a la The Blair Witch Project, actually serves double duty: it adds to the frenzied, primal feel of being trapped in closed quarters with an unknown, malicious being, and it also covers up the budgetary limitations of the film.
Even with the lack of funds, though, The Cavern looks darn good. You can’t tell that the actors are standing in the equivalent of a giant science fair volcano; it looks like a real cavern, or at least something worthy of spelunking. If only Osunsanmi could teach other low-budget, straight-to-video filmmakers about how to make this much out of their money.