Directed by Monte Hellman [Other horror films: The Terror (1963), Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out! (1989), Trapped Ashes (2006, segment ‘Stanley’s Girlfriend’)]
One of the many cheap horror films from the late 1950’s, Beast from Haunted Cave has a little charm, but having seen it twice now, I don’t think that charm does a hell of a lot to save it.
The biggest problem here is that, as far as I could tell, we never really saw much of the beast. We saw it’s arms a few times, and sort of a head, but as far as an overall view is concerned, I still don’t know if it was a giant spider or a land-octopus. Maybe it wouldn’t matter had it been used to greater effect, but this movie doesn’t really possess the subtlety you’d see in, say, a Val Lewton production.
Michael Forest made for a nice-looking, rugged lead, and he worked well with Shelia Noonan, who’s the real star of the film. Noonan played a pretty complicated character for such a cheap-looking movie, which is a shame, because I think she did a pretty good job with her material. She never really did do much else afterward in the movie industry, which is, again, a shame. Here, she started off with a shaky character, but she developed quickly and became quite sympathetic. Frank Wolff (who is better known for his spaghetti westerns) was okay, but I feel like his character could have used some of the development that Noonan’s got.
Being a snow-covered hill, I think Beast from Haunted Cave had a solid setting (and in fact, the beginning of the film thanks the people of South Dakota for the use of their state for filming, which I thought was a nice gesture), and I liked the skiing (never been skiing myself, but it almost looks fun), but aside from looking nice, the setting itself didn’t have much to do with the story.
I think the main issue with this film is what I said earlier, being that the beast isn’t really seen clearly (at least in the version I saw – I watched a 66-minute version of this movie, and I know that longer prints exist, so I sort of wonder how those go), and while there are some brutal scenes (a woman being drained of her blood by the beast), there’s not a lot here that did much as far as I was concerned.
Watching this again wasn’t the worst time ever (and part of this is due to the fact that it’s a pretty short movie, no matter which version you watch), but I think there are plenty of better films from the late 1950’s that are worth attention.