Saturday, October 24, 2009

HORROR EPICS: The Descent (2005)

When I reviewed Battle Royale for last year’s Horror Epics, I made a rather bold statement. I’d made the claim that it was the best horror movie released in this decade, and pretty much said that nothing else was going to top it. Well, it turns out that I’ve underestimated Neil Marshall and his ability to put together a movie that isn’t just a remake of a low-budget 1970s obscurity. Although it doesn’t top Battle Royale, The Descent certainly deserves better than being ranked as a “distant” second. Sarah, Juno, and Beth are weekend warriors who fancy themselves as badass extremists looking Death in the eye and laughing. But Sarah’s ass-kicking exterior erodes when both her husband and daughter are killed in a car wreck. A year later, our trio of ladies reunites with some other friends at a log cabin in the Appalachian Mountains. There’s a mother and a daughter, plus some irritating faux-punk chick who seems to believe that speaking of female sexual pleasure is still a radical statement in this day and age. Anyway, the purpose of this journey is to help Sarah move past her trauma and re-enter the real world. A noble cause to be sure, but Juno’s idea is to take the group cave diving in the middle of the woods. Personally, I’ve never understood anyone’s need to do things like spelunking. No thanks. If I am feeling “adventurous,” I’ll just take a late-night walk through certain parts of West Oakland while smiling. Apparently that thought never dawned on Ms. Juno, but the thought of outright lying to her friends about their whereabouts did. Turns out that the cave they’re exploring is uncharted…which means that if something should happen to go wrong, the search and rescue team won’t know where to find them. Adrenaline junkie Juno thought it’d be cool to find the cave complex and name it, and never considered what a dangerous situation she was putting everyone in. Especially since their transfer tunnel has just collapsed in a pile of rubble, leaving our explorers with little choice but to look for an alternate exit thousands of feet underground. The tough extremists begin to crack under the pressure, but so would you if you were trapped in a goddamned cave. For those of you that still haven’t seen The Descent, I won’t spoil the rest for you. The less you know, the more you’ll enjoy it. Damn, I wish I saw this in the theater. Considering that what was described could actually happen in real life, the idea scares the bejeesus out of me. I watched it in bed with the lights off and could feel the characters’ claustrophobia and paranoia emanating from the screen. In that sense, The Descent deserves to be mentioned alongside classics like Deliverance, Jaws, and Alien—all movies that use tension and space to their advantage rather than buckets of gore. I have a feeling that film audiences will continue to hold The Descent in that high of regard in years to come. Make sure to check out the unrated DVD, although you’ll wonder why they’ve got a sequel coming out soon if you do. I gotta check out Neil Marshall’s previous film Dog Soldiers sometime.

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