Posted on 5/12/10 08:29 PM
This............ladies and gentlemen, is how horror movies should be made. One of my top 5 horror films, probably even top 3.
I write this review in part because I just watched The Descent Part 2, and will review it shortly, but I thought it would be remiss of me to not put in an opinion piece on a movie that I think incredibly high of. Ask yourself, what are the truly essential elements of a decent horror movie? Well.............The Descent has all of them, and then some. Some aspects of it are better than virtually any movie of it's genre out there, others' maybe not so much, but as an overall package it is difficult to match.
The movie centers around 6 daring girls, who set out on their annual get together which is usually a different type of adventurous outing. This year, it's a caving expedition. The story's key characters are Sarah, Beth and Juno. I won't get into all of the details, because there are some nice little surprises in the story, but the dynamic of these three is integral to some events. As the girls plunge deeper into the caving system Juno has chosen for the group, a few things become apparent, all of which add up to the fact that this trip is not going to go well, and being deep underground is the worst possible place for problems.
Neil Marshall (Writer/Producer/Director) works the cave environment to perfection. The use of tight spots induce a great claustrophobic effect, and this movie's use of light, dark and shadows is nothing short of brilliant. You move about in your seat, you don't quite feel at ease.....and this is in the slow parts!! Marshall also gets a lot of mileage out of the "light props" be it mining helmets, flares, glow sticks, a camera with night vision, all of these add their own unique tension as you wonder what the hell is down there with these girls.
If you have never seen the move and have no clue of the story then stop reading here......SPOILERS ALERT!!!
And then we find out........and what a scene it is. The girls are definitely not alone, there are a race of "crawlers" living in the cave that remind me of Gollum, but with twice the aggression and the ugliness of an orc. They're fast, deadly, and hungry for young ladies. The rest of the movie is mayhem, and an ultimate battle of survival, and The Descent pulls no punches. It is not for the faint hearted.
Here is what I look for in a good horror movie:
A stage being set, making you interested in what is to come. VERDICT - Absolutely, if anything it is the best feature of this film and story. Whether you have seen the trailer or not, you know the premise, and you know that there is going to be trouble.
Great suspense and a good build up to either all hell breaking loose, or a great scare or series of scares. VERDICT - Hell yes!!!! Some people think this film takes too long to get going, and to me that is a lack of appreciation for true suspense. The surroundings are used to such terrific effect that you hate being in that cave as much as the girls. It's a slow boiler and should be appreciated as such, in a day and age where movies lack the patience to get to the point.
Terrific simple scares. Spooking you out the old fashioned way. VERDICT - For sure. As I mentioned, the use of shadows, sounds of things you can't see, it's all a little unnerving. The Descent thrives on tension and uses it's resources very well to produce it.
Awesome modern horror movie type scares, containing shock value and typically a lot of blood, guts, and maybe even brains. VERDICT - Plenty of it and AMEN!!! The battle for survival is nothing short of primal. The violence is totally hard core and people who love that sort of thing will be very pleased with dose they get in the second half.
A movie's hero/heroine acting out of their comfort zone in order to survive. VERDICT - Let's be honest horror fans here.....there is nothing like watching chicks go feral and resort to primal animalistic instincts in order to survive. Sorry for the use of the term "chicks", but ladies hardly seemed appropriate, and guys will normally digress to those instincts easier. All things considered, it's something I love to see in a horror movie and there is definitely no "oh I broke a nail" about these girls. They're savage, and they'll rip your head off, and there is something oddly appealing about that.
Finally, a great twist, or series of twists, especially the ending. There are two endings that people know. The US theater ending, and the ending that was originally shot that is approximately 2 minutes longer. The original ending is fantastic, and sheds a totally different light on how you feel it all turned out. Even if you take that out there are still some nice turns and reveals along the way. This is no interwoven plot, but it's a good yarn.
This movie has it all. I remember looking forward to seeing this movie and was totally rewarded after finally experiencing The Descent. I approached the sequel with trepidation, because even if it holds faith to this, it is a hell of a hard act to follow. Speaking of which I know Marshall, who is an undoubted movie making talent, has not matched this film since, but then again, that is hard to do.
Turn off all the lights........set the AC to cold.....and experience a true must see in horror films.