The Netflix Claustrophobic Action Thriller With A Yellowstone Star

By Jeffrey Rapaport | Published

Netflix doesn’t enjoy its status as the top streaming platform for nothing. Indeed, among other strengths, the service delivers gripping content month after month. The Cave, streaming now and starring Yellowstone’s bad-boy heartthrob, Cole Hauser, is no exception. 

Trapped In The Cave

The film, however, is definitely not for those suffering from acute claustrophobia. It plunges viewers into a heart-pounding thrill ride—deep underground, where quarters are tight, oxygen scarce, and light scarcer. The film begins during the Cold War, when the United States and the Soviet Union vied for global influence and domination. Deep in the Carpathian Mountains of Central Europe, a joint Soviet-British team explores an abandoned 13th-century abbey. Soon enough, the ground collapses beneath their feet, toppling them into a vast cave system. As they search for an exit, creepy noises float over to them through the darkness…

Yellowstone’s Cole Hauser As Jack McAllister

Cut to the present day, when a scientist named Dr. Nicolai and his team investigate—what do you know?!—that same abbey site. Hypothesizing the cave contains a unique ecosystem, aiming to properly adventure through it, they enlist professional cave diver Jack McAllister (played by Cole Hauser) and his brother Tyler, two brawny Americans.  Soon enough, one of their team members loses contact with the group, while another is attacked and abducted by a mysterious creature. All of which leads to a rockfall (convenient), trapping everyone in the cave. The crew of unfortunates thus hug the river, following it in hopes of an exit, as no rescue is due for 12 long days. 

The Cave Dwellers

Soon, as the bodies pile up and the creatures increase their attacks and exposure, it becomes apparent that some form of parasitic mutation affects all the caves’ lifeforms. Unfortunately for Yellowstone devotees, the cave’s baddies also get their disgusting claws on Cole Hauser, initiating his mutation, albeit slowly. It all amounts to a claustrophobic horror-fest if there ever was one, harkening to sci-fi classics of claustrophobia like the Aliens franchise, which clearly influenced it. The antagonist monsters are sufficiently disgusting and frightening when revealed, which they often only partially are, imbuing the film with legitimate suspense and scares. Overall, the movie compellingly combines suspense, action, and psychological drama—resulting in a passable thriller.

The Making Of The Movie

Interestingly, in an infrequent occurrence when it comes to principal photography, much of The Cave’s production took place in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania, where the narrative of the Cole Hauser film is set. There, native craftsmen built elaborate sets—including an Olympic-sized pool for underwater scenes, fit with a built-in cave, waterfalls, and rapids.The decision to film in Romania was sadly not only due to dedication to the film’s narrative arc. Rather, Romania boasts production costs significantly lower than the United States, making it tempting from a budgetary perspective. While the Romanian set featured extensive underwater sequences, the cold temperatures of local caves posed challenges—all of which led the team to the warmer waters of the Yucatan, Mexico, for additional filming.In Mexico, The Cave’s production team based itself at Hidden Worlds Cenotes Park, a bastion of natural beauty and favorable conditions. It’s a safe bet The Cave’s cast enjoyed themselves in beachside Mexico (Yellowstone fans, we understand if you’d like to take a moment to visualize shirtless Cole Hauser sipping a Corona).

Notably, in movie history first, the film pioneered the use of high-definition cameras underwater. The crew also implemented fiber-optic link technology for communication in caves, setting a new standard in underwater filming.

Panned By Critics And Audiences

Financially, the film grossed around $33 million globally and $15 in the US. Against a budget of $30 million, this meant a marginal success—but a success nonetheless. 

Critically, however, the horror film was, how shall we say, unsuccessful, receiving predominantly negative reviews from critics and audiences alike. The movie languishes on Rotten Tomatoes with a mere 12 percent positive rating from 111 reviews (on Metacritic, things aren’t much better: 3.5/10).

Generally, critics panned the movie for depending too much on cliches and unbelievable plotlines. They did, however, pay respects to its stylistically impressive sets and compelling special effects.

But these bells and whistles could not compensate for what experts saw as a glaring lack of character development, overuse of tired tropes, and lackluster writing. 

Stream The Cave On Netflix

Still, if you’re a fan of horror movies, The Cave is worth streaming—especially if you fantasize about life on the ranch with Cole Hauser.