Neilson returns to the disaster movie genre yet again – glutton for punishment!

Irwin Allen come the 80’s didn’t have quite the budget nor the clout he once did – reduced to washing up old ideas in new situations on a shoestring budget. Enter Cave In! – an interesting yet flawed melting pot of ideas that don’t quite work.

Released: 1983

Runtime: 2hrs

The Premise

Let’s all go for a trip to unstable caves where everyone hates each other! Woohoo! Holiday heaven!

The Disasters Faced

Cave In’s, bridges that collapse, swims that are too cold, stupidity and death of boredom through flashbacks.

The Execution

Cave In! features some very strange ideas. Filmed in 1979 but never shown until 1983 – you don’t expect much when its sat in a vault for 4 years but to be fair, it follows a specific formula. Various couples, all of whom hate their other partner, be it their dad, wife or ex. The “disaster” is basically a lot of camera shaking as the stage falls around them and the following hour or so continues to follow these characters who are trapped in the cave with a fugitive go through various obstacles such a boiling pool of water, an underwater swim and as ever – a rickety bridge! A lot of people complained over the last sequence of When Time Ran Out when we watched the bridge sequence where everyone takes forever to get over it. Cave In! decides to do this with each problem it faces. However, everything is downscaled. The underwater swim is about 5 feet underwater. The bridge is small. The boiling water has a few slippery rocks. While all this is going on, we’re “treated” to flashbacks of these characters to discover why they’re all tense with each other. It’s strange because the flashbacks happen at silly times and just pad the movie which is already padded itself. Thankfully it’s not a 3-hour mini-series which is what they do for disaster movies these days but it still feels like a lot of it is tacked on and bloats a movie that’s already slow paced.

This skipping stones segment is about as dramatic as it gets

The Effects

By keeping things small, the effects aren’t really on show very much – it’s about set design and the sets are nice enough. The cave in does the job and there’s not too much badly chopped superimposed screen effects (ala When Time Ran Out). Know your limits well Irwin!

Why It’s Worth Watching

To see if anyone dies! All the characters are a bit silly in their own right and have their chances to be redeemed or killed so it’s kept on an even keel to see who survives. The flashbacks are so 1975 soap opera they have to be seen to be believed. To be fair though, the acting holds everything together and its testament to the calibre involved (Lesley Nielson) that it does hold up. The film really runs parallel to me with Hanging By A Thread, which Allen also made later on in his career with a shoestring budget. The disaster is too small and the clunky drama too soap opera to care as its just too chunky. If these films just rearranged some of their beats around a bit, they would flow much better.

Drinking Game

Have a shot whenever they flashback or someone bickers – you’ll be sloshed very quickly!

Favourite Character

Gene (Dennis Cole) is a nice character – a real contrast to almost everyone else!

Discount When Time Ran Out – did you ever think that would be a thing?!

Best Death

*Spoiler Alert*

There’s only a single death in the entire film and they take a lovely plunge over the edge of a rock face. Toodles!

Weirdest Moment

The underwater swim. Aside from the crazy flashbacks which have a point, all they are doing is swimming literally 5 feet tops under a rock. How much drama can there be?! Plus how did Ann manage to get her paper letter through that in one piece?!?

Random Trivia

I still have no reason as to why it took four years to get to air on TV. Was confidence that low?


Full of random moments, lots of padding and some goofy situations, Cave In! follows in the 70’s disasters movies footsteps with admittedly baby shoes in terms of scope and budget but it’s not Elevator by any means – it’s just nowhere near the top of the genre either. Fun, flawed, flamboyant – for fans of the genre only.

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