A Saturday Afternoon Free Movie

There are certain advantages to having the cable TV “On Demand” service that lets me watch a movie whenever I like, save it for 24 hours, rewind, pause, and so on as I choose. Even when I’m doing the pay-per-view version of that, it’s generally worth it—a much better deal than the movie theater, certainly, unless you’re seeing something that really requires a big screen due to effects.

The service has a selection of free movies, which invariably suck worse than anything out in the theaters this summer, because these are the movies that didn’t even make it to theaters. Then, if you subscribe to any premium channels, it allows you to watch a selection of movies from those channels for free as well. Most of those suck too, but there’s usually one or two worth watching. We subscribe to some of the premium channels not so much for the channels themselves as the ability to watch a bunch of movies from them for free whenever we want, which mostly translates to my watching them when my husband’s on a business trip.

Under those circumstances, you’d think it wouldn’t be too hard for me to find a movie I want to watch. After all, at those times I’m usually in the mood for a fairly mindless thriller. Sadly, even I can’t watch most of the dreck they show, and I’m infamous for being able to enjoy movies other folks deride as horrid.

There was the giant-mutated-escaped-spiders movie with the dialogue so bad I stopped watching after two minutes. I think I felt my brain leaching out through my ears during those two minutes. Then there was the cannibals-in-the-desert movie that I watched for about 30-45 minutes out of pure train-wreck fascination—and then even that wasn’t enough to keep me watching.

Finally today I found exactly what I needed. This is the ideal formula: it’s a fairly standard, low-key monster-type movie, but it has a halfway-decent director and writer(s) (they probably have some skill and/or talent but haven’t worked their way up in the business yet). It also has a collection of actors that includes some reliable low- or mid-level talent as well as one or two future stars who just haven’t had their hits yet. So the writing doesn’t kill you, the effects don’t make you snicker, and the acting doesn’t make you wince. Or at least if you’re me they don’t; I don’t promise anything if you have some sort of refined taste in movies.

In this case I think the title was “The Cave.” Think, crack diving team explores a miles-long underwater tunnel in the Carpathians, only to discover monsters down there. Like I said—standard plot. Only this has Lena Headey in it (of “300” fame), who rocks as an actress, and a couple of other folks I actually recognized from various TV and movie spots (“Pitch Black,” “Invasion,” “Lost”). The plot was fairly reliable but interesting, and there was plenty of tension.

Oh, and if you, too, ever find yourself looking through the swath of free movies in the premium channel On Demand section, I highly recommend checking out the Starz selection first. Apparently they’re less stingy about putting some not-too-horrid movies in the free section. I almost always end up watching something from their selection, no matter which channel I check first; now I just look there first.


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