Sanctum caught my eye on the guide over the weekend so I decided to give it a try. Its not all that old - it was released in 2011, but I had not seen it, and knew nothing of it. James Cameron is the executive producer though, so I thought it was likely to be pretty good.
I was not wrong. It starts off with a group of adventurous types heading towards an under water cave system in Papua New Guinea. We meet Josh, 17, whose dad, Frank, is a very experienced diver who has already set up forward camp inside the cave system. Josh is travelling with a guy named Carl and his girlfriend Vic, and makes it known that he doesn't rate his father at all. Even the first part is terrifying. There is nothing on this earth that would make me go down into what is basically a great big hole in the ground.
Anyway, below them, the team at forward camp start off to explore a part of the cave system that is new and unknown. One of the women, Jude gets into problems with her air hose whilst in the new system. She loses her air and the two divers, she and Frank, begin to buddy breathe, or try to. Jude starts to really panic and holds onto the mask, stopping Frank from being able to breathe himself. Frank has no choice but to take his mask back or they would both die. Jude drowns, as Josh and the others are watching on the monitor. Its not pleasant watching, not at all.
Josh assumes it was his dad's fault. They argue about why Jude died, and eventually Frank tells Josh that Jude had dived in an exhausted state, having had to go fetch the extra tanks that Josh was supposed to bring. Above ground, a storm has started. Josh wants to leave, and Frank doesn't stop him. He arranges buddy climber to go with him to the entrance.
Josh heads back along with Luko, Liz and JD, some of those that were on forward camp with his dad. As they start to climb, they realise the storm is bad. Very bad. Water starts to pour in, the storm has become a cyclone. They try to carry on climbing, but Josh realises how much water is coming down is going to flood the system below, and can't leave his dad down there.
Frank, Carl and Victoria appear though, as they had also realised that they needed to get out. Unfortunately, the water has turned into a treacherous flood like a waterfall blocking their way. As Frank and Carl try to help Vic, Josh straps a rope around a boulder to try and assist. The boulder starts to move though, and Josh and Vic fall into the flood camp below, while Luko tries to free himself. He loses his grip and smashes into the rock wall. He seems badly injured, but things get worse as Luko is washed away with the force of the water and no one can reach him.
The boulder has blocked the way out, so they have no choice but to enter the underwater systems again to search for another way out of there. At this point, I was panicking, nevermind those in the film! Vic, refusing to wear recently deceased Judes wetsuit, is given a bit of a crash course in diving and off they go into the dark and unknown. Before they get far, Luko is washed up and found to be very badly injured, his face all smashed up and his body bent and broken, but still alive. He cant go with them in that condition, so Frank has to save him from further pain by drowning him rather than leave him alone to linger on death.
George - Frank's experienced buddy, Vic and Carl, Josh and Frank all make the dive and reach the other side of the system. Resting for a little while, Vic regrets not wearing the suit as she shivers from the cold. George, without letting onto the group, struggles to breath. Clearly, he has the bends from the dive, but doesn't tell them. When he starts to cough up blood, he hides in the tunnels from the group, knowing that he will hold them back. Frank struggles to search, shouting for George, but in the gloom and all the nooks and tunnels, he can't find him and has to carry on.
When they find George's tanks and gears, Frank realises what must have happened. They reach a huge hole and cannot go any further. Josh manages to hook a line across to the other side. Vic starts to cross but with being so cold still, she loses her grip. She drops and gets her hair tangled in the line. the only thing holding her is her hair. Screaming with the pain, the others can't get to her as the line won't take the weight. She takes her knife and cuts her hair free, dropping to her death below. Carl flees in dispair, not being able to cope with it any longer, leaving Josh and Frank alone.
They reach a cave with a giant hole in the roof, with sunlight pouring in. They find a tank of all things, that must have fallen through years before. They can't get out though, as there is nothing to climb and no way to get up to the surface. They rest a while, then head back through the system once again. They find Carl, who has located vic's body and gone a bit bonkers to be honest. When Frank says they must continue, Carl goes for him and Frank lands on a sharp stone badly injuring him. Josh gets Carl off his dad, but the damage is done. Carl realises what he's done finally, and swims away into the cave system alone.
Josh only then realises his dad is dying. The sharp stone was in fact a stalagmite and from his breathing its clear Frank is a goner. He asks Josh to help him. Josh can't do it, but as he watches his once strong and formidable dad fading and in such pain, he know he must. Forlorn, josh continues onwards to try and get out. He heads back into the system, finding Carl who has drowned, but he carries on. At this point, it seems they are all going to die down there, Josh included.
Josh starts to drift away, losing hope and I was convinced he was gone too. Then he sees a beam of light through the water, and uses it to guide him to the surface. He escapes the caves and makes it out into the ocean and air. He crawls onto the beach and is rescued, the only survivor.
There are no big names in this film - one or two faces I recognised though. Frank for one, played by Richard Roxburgh I recognise from Mission Impossible II, and George from a shark drama film called Bait. The script isn't that brilliant either - little bit predictable and flat. However, that isn't actually a problem.
This film is saved by several key things - the location is stunning, the visual and photography is amazing; the thought of A-going into such a large dark hole in the earth, and B-getting stuck down there is terrifying. The fact that in real life this has happened is even more scary. Worse than that, one of the stunt doubles actually drowned in the same system or near it not longer after this film was released. Talk about life imitating art!!
This is a truly terrifying tale. It doesn't need monsters hiding in the murky depths, or sharks or any such distraction. Its claustrophobic setting and feel would be enough to send anyone to the brink of despair and their sanity. The thought of diving beneath the earth, in the dark, with no idea of where or if there is a way out?? Truly scary.
If you want to scare the pants off yourself, watch this. If you don't like tight spaces I really wouldn't! I enjoyed this film a lot. I wouldn't give it a high score out of 10 for the acting, but it was good enough overall to recommend. I would probably say its a five or six out of ten this one, but still very good and very worth a watch. Enjoy and let me know what you thought. :)