The existence of urban legends and cultural lore has over time grown to exist beyond its traditional incarnations. What is modernly known as Creepypasta has evolved from its once humble origins as internet campfire stories and become a worldwide phenomena. Based on the chilling but very enthralling internet legend, Ted the Caver (which ran from late 2000 and into 2001), Living Dark: The Story of Ted the Caver breathes life into a tale that haunts the subconscious of many to this day.
Originally released back in 2013, but available on DVD as of April 23, 2019 thanks to Monarch Home Entertainment, the film stars Chris Cleveland (Relax…It’s Just Sex 1998, The Prestige 2006) as Ted, the rather apathetic but determined brother to Brad. Matthew Alan (Red Tails 2012, Grey’s Anatomy series) appears as Brad and Circus-Szalewski (Zombies Vs. Strippers 2012, Expelled 2014) in the amusing role of Joe.
Directed by David Hunt (Good Chemistry 2008, Greater 2016), who diligently brings the tale of Ted the Caver to life, the film enters its opening credits with an accordion-esque melody that perhaps could be played in the course of a casual gondola ride. The black background is a brief home to introductory credits, before they fade away and a brief, but intriguing preface appears. It states that in the year of 2001, the discovery of a ‘virgin cave’ has been chronicled within an online journal. In the following statement, it is asserted that due to the massive attention it once received, the, “whole story will be told.”
The vague, oddly curious opening only serves to draw in the viewer, despite the fact that it is less than five minutes into the film. The introduction as a whole reads like the beginning of an episode of The X-Files, with the exclusion of Fox Mulder’s not-so-conspiracy theories. Photographs of a man in what is easily assumed to be a cave tunnel are shown before being swirled about with the title. The viewer has begun their descent.
As the title credits fade away, the sight of a gravestone and a hand placing flowers before it. The camera remains on the words, ‘beloved father’ as the sounds of a man beginning to weep, weave in and out of the sorrowful soundtrack. Of the two men standing at the gravesite, Ted, is stoic and the other, Brad, openly weeps. This becomes a sharp contrast that will remain throughout the film. Together they mourn the loss of their father, though as the scene unravels, so does an underlying turmoil that seems to remain unspoken.
The air of Living Dark: The Story of Ted the Caver turns ominous when the elder of the brothers stumbles upon a pit, still covered in flimsy wooden slats. After nearly plummeting through the crater, they begin their decline, with nothing but a rope tethered to a tree as their singular escape. From the moment that they set foot into the cave it is made clear that something is not quite right. The cavern is filled with items from another century, the hollow whispers the endlessly trickle through the tunnels. The discovery of a miniscule hole and a flow of air sends them into an obsessive journey to work their way further into the cave.
The strangled relationship between the brothers is entangled with a woman once engaged to Ted, but now with Brad. While traveling back and forth to the cave is an endless to and fro it is broken up with a comedic sigh of relief when an altercation with an English gas station attendant goes awry. The humor while occasionally crass and dull, has its bright moments that induce a laugh. Joe, the rather vexing Englishman is the most humorous of all the characters, if in an obnoxious manner.
The uneasy melody from the start of the movie continues to play in and out, switching out with the eldritch sounds that emanate from the cave. The palpable, underlying terror that primarily remains isolated within the cave begins to work its way into the remaining settings of the film with Ted experiencing several attacks in his own home. While a rather slow start, there is something about the unassuming air of it all, sprinkled with temptation that makes it a worthwhile watch.
Many original fans of Ted the Caver find charm in the fact that while most of the more chilling elements can easily be brushed off with a simple explanation. The sequences of the brothers crawling on their stomachs through tunnels of unfathomably small width derive feelings of discomfort that in turn send the heart racing. The audio effects bring about sensations as though one might actually experience these things for themselves.
All this said, while Living Dark: The Story of Ted the Caver may not the most elaborate or definitively terrifying movies, there remains a certain charm that it is self-contained and stays within its boundaries. The characters while sporadically lacking something beyond the surface, do evoke authentic emotions not only from themselves, but from the audience. For these reasons Cryptic Rock give this film 3.5 out of 5 stars.