Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Descent

Written and directed by Neil Marshall
Lions Gate

The Descent is another one of those horror movies from Lions Gate that has the "scariest movie since..." tag attached to it. The independent company brought us the likes of High Tension, Saw, and this year's Hostel, and have become a source for excruciating bloodbath horror, "grosser than gross" hypotheticals brought to film. A carnival of pain!

The Descent concerns six adventurous women who go to Appalachia to explore a cave, one that all but one know hasn't been explored before. Our main character is Sarah (Shauna Macdonald), traumatized by a car crash that took her husband and young daughter. A year later, it's time to turn that frown upside down and explore the depths of the Earth, a spelunking expedition that gets bad to worse as the women battle cave-ins, falls, and eventually, the savages within. Not to mention, in one of the movie's nice strokes, each other.

The movie's scares are of the startling variety. Things are all normal and then BOOM! Bats! Or CRASH! Scary Gollum/Orc hybrid coming out of nowhere! And don't get me wrong, some of these ran chills through my skin. There's some damn good scares in this. But when the scare happens, the movie inevitably turns over to rapid-paced action editing through a dark cave, making it ever harder to figure out what the hell is going on, and hence, an assault to the senses appealing to your adrenaline more than your fright. I thought the movie should have used a bit more caution in these battle scenes--not making everything an all-out war, sticking to the creepiness of darkness and claustrophobia could have made this a complete winner.

According to horror standards, The Descent is a little bit more subtle about being redneck horror than most. Your typical stroll through Deliverance country in a horror flick makes the South look like a highwire navigation through bloodthirsty IQ-defecient toothbrush-lacking pig-fucking land. And while the creatures in this film don't resemble your usual Confederate-flag-waving, pickup-truck-driving, barely-human inbreds--there's a reason why it's set in Appalachia. It's that outsider fear of the southern US that filmmakers play on. Maybe it's just me and my southern consciousness, but you don't see this type of flick set in the Rockies or the Swiss Alps. Humankind has not developed that much of a fear of lederhosen and yodeling yet. Maybe someday.

The Descent is not the best horror movie since Alien, but it does deliver on many counts and is therefore worth a try.


At 8/06/2006 04:04:00 AM, Blogger Reel Fanatic said...

Good review ... I'm torn between going to see this one today and going to M Night's movie ... I think I'll see Lady in the Water, only because it will be leaving the theaters sooner, but 'The Descent" sounds just great


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