Along with 5 sassy british chicks, and 1 annoying american!
The latest venture from Director Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers) tells the tale of six women, long time friends, getting together for their annual ‘extreme sports’ outing. Starting with the previous years rafting trip, we join the girls as they gather for their newest adventure, cave spelunking. As they gather their gear and prepare the latest expedition, trip organizer Juno (the annoying American) decides what they really need is an uncharted adventure. Throwing the cave guide to the side, and failing to tell her friends the true nature of their trip, the girls set off into a world of claustrophobia and pitch, as they ‘descend’ to the depths.
Fans of Marshall’s previous foray into the horror genre will know that the man can craft a scene, fill it with suspense, and a little bit of edge. This time around, he’s crossed over that edge, leaped off head first, and hoped for the best. Starting slow as we watch the girls on their rafting trip the year before, the film starts with a bang. With a swift turn of events in the beginning of the film, Marshall grabs your attention, just to make sure you’re awake. As we progress to watch the girls drinking on the first night of ‘Girls Night Out Part 2′, the pace slows back down, and your attention begins to wane. Soon just as you’re starting to feel a bit ho hum about the whole ordeal, we’re at the mouth of a cave, and as the girls descend to the dark depths, the tension slowly begins to rise. Next thing you know, Mr. Gooch is having to leave the room, and watch from around a corner!
Stand out character number one in The Descent is the cinematography itself. Claustrophobic to say the least, the director takes what is normally thought to be pitch black, (You’ve seen the Discovery Channel, you can’t see squat in those caves!) finds unique ways to light that darkness, and soon turns the shadows into characters all of their own. As the girls squeeze through narrows, become lost in the depths, and the lights begin to dim, you the viewer will find your nerves beginning to unravel, right along with the girls stuck in every claustrophobic person’s nightmares. Never before has a film made me leave a room, just from shear camera shots and apprehension. I’ve watched a lot of sick stuff, so that’s saying a lot. (Arachnophobia doesn’t count Rick) The best part? By the time the walls start to close in on you sitting there in the theatre… we haven’t even come to the good stuff yet.
As the previews show, not only do the girls become trapped and lost in this deep dank cave network, but there’s something in there with them. While the panic builds early on, this something is only hinted towards by faint squeaks and scrapes deep in the dark corners, brought to life by the audio side of the film. We’re talking audiophile’s wet dream here. As we’re brought face to face with that which dwells, soon the film crosses from slow and creeping panic, to full on holy shit. The fear smacks you square in the face, and soon you’ll be wide eyed and nail biting along with the best of them.
The writing in The Descent is above par, as you learn that there is a double meaning to the title itself, but it does have a downfall or two. More than anything, the character development of the film is rather lacking, as you find yourself confused over who’s who. Deep in the cave, there’s not a whole lot there to make one girl stand out from another, except for the annoying American of course. You’ll pick her out of the crowd, no problem. Yes, it’s dark and hard to see, but you really shouldn’t leave your viewer saying ‘wait, who just died?’
The Descent was easily the first horror flick in a long time, to wig out this hardened harbinger of horror. The first horror flick of the new millenia to do so? Yah, definitely possible. I had to leave the room folks!
4.5 sassy British chicks, even if I’m not quite sure which one survived out of 5