Sanctum starts out as a generic Abyss sequel in story, which is then executed like an enhanced ride found at Epcot Center. As the 109 minutes flow, the flick then turns into a survival piece with horror movie clichés. And this is where this visual appeal and explorative journey loses its entertainment balance.
Yes James Cameron is attached to this flick in a producing capacity, but that is it my friends. His 3D technology is on display and is handled exceptionally well by cinematographer Jules O’Loughlin. For what becomes a survival pic – that more-or-less resembles the tone of a subtle disaster flick – the journey/exploration can be intriguing. So it’s a shame that the characters’ actions and dialogue were left buried in B-movie hell. Save for the antagonist, the cave.
Frank (Ryan Roxburgh) is consider the world’s greatest explorer. He specializes in cave diving and is currently “caving” in the last uncharted cave system in Australia. This is a tricky mission for much of the charting has to be done underwater. After propelling and/or skydiving to the bottom, his team is armed with all the latest technology and gadgets via the grant from a relatively young billionaire in Carl (Ioan Gruffudd). Carl decides to drop in (no pun) on the site and brings his adventurous girlfriend Victoria (Alice Parkinson) along. Carl doesn’t like sitting on the sidelines and yearns to get into the action. Frank is cool with this, but it is no secret he runs a tight ship. An attitude some people fail to understand. Including his 18-year-old son Josh (Rhys Wakefield).
Josh and his father disagree on how things are handled on the job and in life for that matter. The friction always lingers but never becomes a major distraction. That is until the cave diving journey begins to experience a fatal problem in the form of a tropical storm. Unable to communicate with the above-ground base, Frank realizes his team is trapped and the water from the storm will eventually flood the numerous caverns. Since they haven’t completed the charting, and therefore have not located a way out to the ocean, the team of six must gather whatever supplies they can and dive to find an exit.
This flick is always pulling itself in two different directions. For instance, the acting and dialogue mimic a raunchy teen horror-comedy. The feeble attempts at comedy are unnecessary here. All these moments accomplish is that they detract from a plausible compelling-thriller. And it is not just the comedy. The acting is rookie at best. Ioan Gruffudd is no slouch yet his take on his character sets him back years. Aside from Roxburgh and possibly Wakefield, the rest of the cast ironically looked lost in this story. The only gripping and substantial moments came when someone got killed off. Which by the way, were creative and thoughtful in their attempt to provide the audience with an emotional connection to the characters. As morbid as this may sound, every time someone bit it, the audience quietly gets more into this. Coincidentally, these death scenes really had no dialogue either (no wonder they worked). Moments such as this is what will drive one crazy, because the potential was there.
It’s also maddening because the story never drags. Uncertainty of who will survive and how the group will tackle their next obstacle, keeps the audience modestly engaged. With that said, the flick ruins it with stupidity in how it handles the characters’ actions. And why it decided to put in comic-relief when it wasn’t called for is beyond comprehension (obviously, for I’m still dwelling on this notion). Eventually, the pattern of where this is headed enables the uncertainty angle to become very transparent. Just picture “Ghostface” from Scream uttering one of his favorite lines, “Why don’t you just go investigate a strange noise or something.” In other words, plummet to your death you moron.
Overall, Sanctum is one of the rare cases where the 3D does a couple things right. The scope it provides in the underwater sequences will have the audience taking in the atmosphere. The true – and steady – star of this flick is the actual cave and its labyrinth of passages. The set-up of every scene – or in this case, obstacle – was solid but as stated earlier, the acting and dialogue kept pulling this one back under. If you can tolerate the recurring horror movie flaws, this journey is worth checking out. Much like the rides at Epcot though, try not to expect too much.
RATING: 2.5 out of 5