Nov 6, 2009

[Movies] The Descent (2005)

The DescentI'm really not good with horror movies.

It's not that I don't like them entirely or anything like that - I can definitely see the entertainment value in this particular movie genre. It's just that I know very well that I'm a fairly excitable person, one who's very prone to stress and I just don't handle getting scared very well. I mean seriously, I was really scared when I first played Phantasmagoria and Alone in the Dark back in the day, despite the cheesy graphics! I know, I need help.

But I have gotten better over the years and my ability to extrapolate potential plot twists, predict character behaviors and quickly identify movie patterns and cliches has definitely helped me. I don't think I'm perfect at it, but I've gotten good enough not to get too scared by such movies any more.

Now when you're the kind of person who can't handle horror well and you happen to fall in love with a guy who really loves the horror genre, you know you're in for some interesting movie choices here and there. One night, my partner made me watch this particular film and I was definitely terrified out of my wits!

Stephens Gap, A vertical cave in Alabama, USAImage via Wikipedia

The Descent is a 2005 British horror movie written and directed by Neil Marshall, who has recently been rumored to being asked to direct yet another Dune remake but has yet to agree. The movie tells the tale of a group of young, adventurous women who decide to help their grief-stricken friend Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) deal with the death of her husband and her daughter in a tragic car accident. Their plan is to go caving / spelunking (I did say they're adventurous) but after a cave-in seals them off from their entry point, Juno (Natalie Mendoza) reveals that she's led them to an unknown cave system and so they'll need to find their own way out.

This shouldn't have been too much of a problem for experience climbers and adventurers like themselves until they realize that there may be something with them in the caves...and they don't seem to be perfectly human. And thus the movie becomes an epic survival piece as they're trapped under the earth with these unknown creatures.

The movie is a bit of a slow burn in terms of plot development, which is actually perfect since it makes it highly reminiscent of more classic horror movies. But instead of a group of stupid teenagers, you have this fiercely independent group of strong women who aren't exactly pushovers. Thus you think they stand a fighting chance against the prospects of being trapped underground or even potentially fighting off mysterious cave dwellers but in there likes the brilliance of the movie. The level of realism is what got me the most - you find yourself thinking that all this is highly plausible and thus the prospects of finding yourself in a similar situation help build the sense of fear and horror as you watch.

Execution was amazing all throughout - the timing of events was done just right to keep the tension level high when needed but still able to lull viewers into a false sense of security every now and then. Plus the twists are totally brilliant and you find yourself trying to figure out the story on so many levels, not just the basic survival horror side of things.

The characters were very well thought-out, at least for the major ones and even the creatures in the cave were pretty unique and logical as well. The movie just made so much sense of all these different levels, that all the more it became scary to me as a viewer.

Note to the wise though - the movie has two endings. Similar to how Pride & Predjudice was handled, The Descent has an ending specific for US audiences. Based on what I've read about it, once again it's a dumber ending and you're better off looking for the original European version. The US ending does explain, however, why they're making a sequel to this amazing film now.

The Descent gets 5 dead adventure girls out of a possible 5.

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