Movie Review: Sanctum (R)


sanctumby Sarah McCarthy, Editorial Intern

I am going to be the first to take initiative and hereby change the name of this movie to ‘Tomb’. I am also going to replace the ad with a picture of one of the many gratuitously shown dead bodies, and the commercial with one of the scenes of people drowning one another. That way, no one will go see the movie, and that’s how it should be.

I don’t consider the following a “spoiler”, but instead a disclaimer that is necessary for anyone planning to see ‘Sanctum’. Just about everyone dies in gruesome, depressing, unnecessarily morbid ways. It is more or less a macabre documentary of death. Dying people, people dying, people killing people, people killing themselves, etc. I went into the movie theater expecting either a.) a rescue story with a warm, fuzzy ending, b.) another cave movie about cannibalistic cave-dwellers, or c.) a documentary on caving. It’s none of the above.

The film is about a group of cavers; a rich couple, Carl and Victoria, who are boringly and obviously introduced as inexperienced tourists, an eye-rolling uninterested teenage boy, Josh, his father, Frank, and a few other supporting characters. They all die anyway, so it isn’t worth naming them. There are a few women, Judes and Victoria, both of whom die sexist deaths which the male characters blame on their carelessness. The plot is briefly introduced: they are diving into a cave that has not been fully explored, in hopes of finding an entrance to the ocean. Although every character acknowledges the immense storm headed towards them, they hop on down into the cave. The rest is history. Well, truly, it isn’t history at all. At the very beginning there is a caption, “based on a true story”. After watching the horrifically dismal film, I was quick to look up the “truth” behind it. Here it is. 15 people were trapped in a cave for two days. Every last one of them survived. On the website, the director and co-writer (who was a diver) raved about “capturing the true story”, but there is really no story to capture.

James Cameron is not the director, but the executive producer. Still, his name is in big letters on the poster, and it is called ‘James Cameron’s Sanctum’ so he might as well be. Cameron directed ‘Avatar’, a visually stunning movie which came out early last year. The effects were incredible, but the writing and the plot of the movie were sub-par at best. Still, the viewer was distracted by a dazzling other world. In ‘Sanctum’, however, the mediocre writing cannot be disguised by bioluminescent plants and colorful flying dinosaur turkey dragons. No, instead we are distracted only by the ringing in our ears left after we wince through another drawn-out death, and that just isn’t enough.

In my opinion, Cameron should have quit while he was ahead. As a member of the audience, I left feeling disheartened and stressed out. As I passed advertisements for stupid looking romantic comedies, I longed to watch them for the sake of ridding myself of the dreariness that ‘Sanctum’ left me with. Unless you are an extreme sadist, I do not recommend this movie. A ‘sanctum’ is defined as a private sanctuary where one finds inner peace and reflection. The movie theater playing ‘Sanctum’ is the exact opposite. Why would one seek despondence and stress? No one, which is why the theater should remain empty.

Sanctum is rated R for language, some violence and disturbing images. It’s not recommended for children under 17.