Sanctum *Snap Judgement* (2011)

Sex :
Violence :
Directors Alister Grierson
Writers John Gavin, Andrew Wight
Starring Richard Roxburgh, Ioan Gruffudd, Rhys Wakefield, Alice Parkinson, Dan Wyllie
Genre Action
Tagline The only way out is down


“As tight as a Nun's nasty” - Carl

Note: We were meant to catch a screening of Season Of The Witch, but there wasn't one on in our local megaplex so we caught this movie instead.

An Australian cave diving team finance by an American entrepreneur are exploring the largest cave in the world hoping to find a link between the cave system and the nearby sea. Surprisingly the cave is in Papua New Guinea, though I'm not entirely sure that's relevant. Team leader Frank, a hard but fair man, believes if they follow an underground river they will eventually reach the sea. Josh, Frank's rebellious son, is along for the ride and picks up their American backer Carl and his adventurer girlfriend Victoria from the local airport. Don't look at me this is the plot.

With a team of “characters” deep underground we become aware of a cyclone massing off the New Guinea coast and are just hoping there wont be an earthquake that will unleash piranha into the underground water system. Naturally everyone leaves it way too late to exit the cave and the cyclone hits, flooding the cave slowly and trapping our team of adventurers deep underground. With no way of making it back to the surface, they have to find the route to the sea in order to survive.

First up this is not a James Cameron movie, he received an executive producer's credit by stint of Director Alister Grierson (Kokoda) deciding to use Cameron's new fangled 3D shooting techniques. Cameron didn't direct, he didn't write, and he didn't supervise any rubber fish or blue skinned CGI people. So the Cameron haters out there need to get off their bandwagon and wait on the next Jimmy C movie and leave this one alone, though we can guarantee the haters have all seen Avatar, those Terminator movies, and Aliens.

Seems this review will be mainly stating a few home truths, which is okay as the movie itself didn't knock my socks off, though I did for the main part enjoy it. Big breath, further into the breech friends and neighbours.

As opposed to what the Cameron fanbois may claim, Sanctum is a joint Australian/United States effort, we were hardly likely to throw Grierson $30 million to make an action movie. Just because Sanctum tanked in North America doesn't automatically mean there was no Yank involvement, Cameron's name isn't an automatic lever for box office gold. The movie tanked because it's a drama without things going boom every five minutes, or a desire to over indulge low attention span teens. Overall Grierson used the 3D techniques to good effect, there isn't a reliance on them as some movies have, and since Sanctum was inherently shot with 3D cameras it all comes off as realistic.

The movie is included here due to a joint Australian credit and the fact that some people find confined spaces, submerged or not, extremely frightening. I for one am not going cave diving after seeing this flick. Not sure why but Director Grierson does not get the claustrophobic setting working for him, I didn't at any stage feel any sort of anxiety while our rapidly dimensioning team of cavers tried to squeeze through tight places and find an escape from their impending doom. Neil Marshall was certainly more effective in capturing the fear inducing nature of caving during The Descent (2005), Grierson seemed unable to channel any sort of tension, it was all pretty pre-ordained how things would pan out, and the character developments certainly didn't bring anything new to the table or add much in the surprise factor. The Director certainly should have done more with the light, or diminishing of said light, factor. Grierson uses it but doesn't add much when the lights go out, there's simply nothing in the dark to get that chill going up your spine.

Overall I was reminded of a particular bad slasher movie from the 1980s. Group of people trapped in a location with a killer culling the herd one death at a time. Here the cave, and rising water, substitutes for a masked killer, but otherwise death is stalking the netherworld of the cave's interior and we know that not everyone is going to make it through to the end credits. Well to be honest if you have seen the trailer then you will have a pretty good idea about how close to a slasher Sanctum actually becomes.

Unlike a whole bunch of people I had zero issue with the dialogue, okay the central relationship between the father and son was pushing things, but otherwise it was dinky die and not stretching the bounds of friendship. Most people from our major cities, if not all, don't talk like this, but get out in the bush and the Aussie dialogue is true blue. Slight emphasis on being ocker but not enough to have locals cringing in their seats, and certainly a lot better than some of the mind bogglingly terrible lines written into “local character colour” movies that crop up each year, generally with Film Finance backing.

Have I talked enough about the movie? Guess so as I'm out of space. I had an okay time during the cinema session I caught the movie in. People weren't getting up and leaving, no one was talking, guess an older audience than usual judging by the lack of dickheads checking their mobile phones during the movie run time. The movie worked without anyone getting all emotional or being overly ambitious about talking it up after the closing credits. One of those flicks that filled in a slow Sunday when I could have perhaps been doing something slightly more constructive.

ScaryMinds Rates this movie as ...

  Okay movie that doesn't attempt anything new.