Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Recasting Beast from Haunted Cave

Beast from Haunted Cave is a 1959 crime drama disguised as a horror movie. It's really good as a crime drama, but only mildly interesting as a horror film. The monster is pretty cool and original - it's a cobweb-covered, humanoid creature with long, spider-like legs - but the budget was so low that we barely see it. And when we do see it, we sort of wish we hadn't. With modern effects, that monster could look really cool, but the challenge would be to keep the focus on the crime story. That's what makes the movie unique.

Alex Ward (Ryan Gosling)

Alex is the antagonist, not the main character, but he kicks the story off. He's a bank robber planning an elaborate heist in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

You don't get a good sense of the Black Hills in the original, black-and-white movie, but it's beautiful country and would make a fantastic location for a crime thriller like this. It's also wild enough to believe that there could be strange, undiscovered creatures living there.

Back to Alex, he's a ruthless man with a nasty sense of humor who rules his gang - and his girlfriend - with an iron fist. He's charming on the surface, which is how he gains trust and avoids suspicion, but he's pure evil underneath. Ryan Gosling can play both of those qualities equally well.

Gypsy Boulet (Mila Kunis)

Alex's girlfriend - though she's posing as his assistant in the gang's cover story - and our protagonist. She's all in for the heist until she meets Gil, the ski instructor Alex has hired to take the gang across country once they've committed the heist. Gil doesn't know what Alex and his gang are up to, so his innocent lifestyle is attractive to Gypsy, who discovers a peace with him that she didn't even know she craved. Whether or not she's willing to give up her life with Alex though is another story altogether.

Mila Kunis has super expressive eyes, all the better to communicate a woman who's worn out from the hard life she's been leading. She's also extremely easy to root for.

Gil Jackson (Chris Hemsworth)

Gil may not be the main character of the film, but he's certainly the hero. He's a good man living a quiet life as a ski instructor and nature enthusiast. He lives in a cabin away from town and that's one of the reasons Alex hired him to lead the gang on a cross-country skiing expedition. Once the group reaches Gil's cabin, Ward plans to have his airplane land and carry off his crew and their loot into Canada. After disposing of Gil, of course.

It doesn't help Gil's chances of survival that he hits it off with Gypsy and - not realizing she's already romantically involved - constantly flirts with her in front of Alex. The question is: is she flirting back because she likes him or because she's doing her part to distract him from Alex's plan? That's not just a question the audience is wondering, it's also one Gypsy herself may not know the answer to.

Can't think of a better hero these days than Hemsworth. Ryan Gosling's going to have his work cut out for him to play a threat to Hemsworth, but I have faith in him. Just watch Drive and you'll see what I mean.

Byron (Michelle Rodriguez)

Byron is a man in the original, but I enjoy gender-swapping when possible and there's no reason he can't be a woman in the remake. Let's just say that Byron's her last name and not even worry about giving her a first one. That makes her tougher and more mysterious, anyway.

Byron is Alex's right hand. She's as tough and ruthless as he is, if not as smart. For example, it's Byron who discovers the cobweb monster when she takes a date up to the mine where she's supposed to be planting explosives.

Alex's plan is to blow up the mine the following day and rob the local bank while everyone's dealing with the cave-in. Alex doesn't count on Byron's taking a local bar employee (a waitress in the original, and there's no reason she can't also be a woman in our version) with him to set the charges. Byron finishes the job, but the creature attacks and drags the waitress into the darkness.

The waitress' disappearance causes some problems in town (and Alex doesn't believe Byron's story about the monster), but the plan still works. The bomb goes off, everyone rushes out of town to help, and the gang robs the bank.

Marty Jones (Anthony Mackie)

Marty is Alex's other henchman, but not as tough as Byron. In fact, he kind of has a tender side, as demonstrated when he meets Imelda. I like Mackie and it's easy to believe him as a tough guy hiding a gentle heart.

Imelda (Moon Bloodgood)

Imelda is Gil's housekeeper in the original version, but let's make her his sister or childhood friend for this one. She lives with him, but their relationship is platonic.

When the gang arrives at the cabin, they're successfully hiding the money they stole (gold bars in the original) and Gil suspects nothing. Imelda and Marty hit it off, complicating a situation that's already tense because Alex is about done with Gypsy and Gil's flirting.

Into all this tension comes the monster. I won't reveal what happens, but the threat of the cobweb monster makes everyone decide very quickly where their priorities and loyalties lie. Played well, the beast is less about creating horror and more about pushing the drama forward, though it should certainly also be scary in order to do that.

Beast of Haunted Cave is a B-movie that doesn't handle it's material as well as it deserves, but the material is excellent and ready to be done right.

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