Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Film Review: "The Descent" (A+!)

Every so often, a horror movie comes along that makes me want to jump up and down with pure joy and a healthy bit of fear, which is an interesting mix.

One of the downsides of being a tried and true fan of the genre is that you can figure out the entire plot of many horror films in the first 5 minutes. The scares are predictable and the gore is never enough (it's still never enough, in my opinion). One of the fantastic things about this film is that it really did disturb me and make me squirm. It's been a long time since I've actually jumped in a theater. And I admit, I may have jumped and said "oh shit!"

A group of friends go caving and meet up with some scary creatures who are delighted to see and tear into them. The film takes this very simple plot and makes it work so well it's kind of amazing considering the other crappy "scary monster in a cave" movies out there. There are few horror films that can say they are simple, as most try to be far more complex than they need to be. There are sub-plots in "The Descent," but they only add to the film and make it that much better. Neil Marshall, who wrote the film, is a genius.

For starters, "The Descent" is paced wonderfully. The into lulls you into a false sense of security, before a serious car crash and an eerie hospital remind you of what movie you're in. One of the best scares is when Sarah is at the window and the spike hits her in the head. I jump at that every single time I watch this movie (and once I even tried to time it so I wouldn't).

The shots of the cave are spectacular. It's all perfectly lit, with wonderful cinematography, and the sense of claustrophobia gets to even those who aren't afraid of small spaces. I felt decidedly uncomfortable when Sarah was stuck in one of the tunnels and found myself shifting in my seat as if I were the one inside the cave. This film forces you to think about the terror of being trapped and identify with the increasing paranoia. Then, just when you think things are going to settle a little bit, out pop the evil molemen who like the taste of human flesh. The entrance of these creatures, despite guessing ahead of time when and where, made me jump what felt like a few feet out of my chair.

This is where the film gets bloody and it never lets up. And oh, it is bloody. My inner gorehound loved this movie. The fight sequences are fucking awesomely choreographed and there are moments where my mouth dropped open in awe. Even when blood was going everywhere and creatures and humans alike were snarling, the film remained pretty to look at (a major achievement in my book). I love gore anyway it's done, but I especially love it when special care is taken to make everything look good (even in moments of sheer chaos). One of the best scenes is at the end, where Sarah and Juno are the last ones left and end up puncturing eyes and biting off ears. And I can't not give honorable mention to Sarah taking Juno's knee out. That's what you get when you sleep with another woman's husband - a caving tool to the knee!

It was, of course, also nice to see a film where there was no nudity. I love horror and I don't particularly mind naked people on screen (it's never bothered me), but once you've seen 34264 boobs, it's nice to get a break. There were also no ridiculous sexual encounters. I'm tired of seeing people fall into each other's arms as if an orgasm will prevent them from whatever psycho is waiting.

I can't recommend "The Descent" enough. It's so nice to get a break from the same old thing. This is a truly unique film, with a great cast, a great script, a great director ... hell, a great everything. Definitely one of my favorites and it never gets old. I've seen it multiple times. Get the DVD so you can see both endings. I tend to favor the alternate ending (the one the U.S. didn't get), but I also love the one where Sarah takes that deep breath of fresh air and promptly goes nuts. Both seem remarkably realistic to me.

The last thing I'll say is I hope they don't fuck up the planned sequel. I almost with they wouldn't make it because nothing can ever top the original.

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