7 November 2011 | Coventry
Whatever's below, it sure keeps you waiting
I had to principal reasons to check out the relatively obscure 80's cave-horror movie. First of all because I read in several reviews that the film can be considered as an antecedent of Neil Marshall's acclaimed 2005 hit "The Descent", in which a bunch of extreme sport chicks encounter a strange breed of predators in a previously unexplored cave. The second reason is because this was the last meaningful film of Don Sharp. This underrated Australian-born director made a few very cool movies for Hammer studios, like "Kiss of the Vampire" and "Rasputin: The Mad Monk", as well as a few other sadly overlooked genre gems like "Dark Places" and "Psychomania" (about a gang of zombie bikers!). "What Waits Below" has a peculiar but potentially interesting premise, and dark ominous caves have always been effective settings for horror flicks. Whenever a group of teenagers, scientists or speleologists plummets down a cavern, there's always some type of monster or estranged civilization to knock them off. The problem here, however, is that takes an enormous long time before something happens and when the menace does eventually gets personified, you'll only feel underwhelmed and maybe even tempted to chuckle. Robert Powell, who starred in some bizarre horror films before like "The Survivor" and "Harlequin", plays a caving expert hired by the army to install a radio transmitter inside a Central American cave. I think it was to remain in contact with submarines, or something
I didn't quite understand that part. Anyway, not important, because the radio as well as the soldiers on guard mysteriously vanish during the first night and Powell leads an expedition deeper down into the cavern. Plentiful of dull conversations and false scares later, the group stumbles upon a whole community of albino dorks. The cave people seriously don't look the least bit scary. Earlier in the film, there' a confusing sequence with some sort of snake monster that peeps out of a hole in the stone wall and kills off one of the soldiers. Even though that creature is a lot more horrific – albeit also a bit cheesy and typically 80's – it would have been a better idea to revolve the film on. Don Sharp generates a bit of morbid atmosphere in the beginning of the descent, but it quickly becomes tedious and too enticing to fast forward. Still, good performances by Lisa Blount and Timothy Bottoms as the despicable army superior.