The Descent
Director: Neil Marshall
Writer: Neil Marshall
Producer: Christian Colson
Starring: Shauna Macdonald, Natalie Jackson, Alex Reid, Saskia Mulder, MyAnna Buring, Nora-Jane Noone
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 99 min
read my spoiler disclaimer

     You know when you walk into a theater with expectations higher than a kite, and then no matter how good the film is, you're let down? Case in point, right here. Don't let the hype and reviews fool you. It's good, but it's not that good. The idea has been done before (I drew countless comparisons during the course of the movie: The Cave, Pitch Black, Deliverance, Alien, Carrie, any other slasher movie).

      A year after a car accident kills Sarah's husband and child, her five friends decide to bring her spelunking in a cave in the desolate forrest of the Appalachian Mountains. What they find in there is shocking and particularly nasty. Who or what that is remains to be seen. Each woman has a very distinct personality: the leader, the free spirit, the quiet one, the rookie, the disturbed, distant one and the other one nobody in the theater cares about or remembers. There is supposed to be this deep, meaningful sub-plot between a couple of these women, and there is; but it's hardly deep or meaningful.

      Let me just get right to it. This is basically just another horror, slasher flick where people always do the dumbest things possible to endanger themselves and their companions. With several, predictable, "jump-out-at-you" moments to get your adrenaline rushing, I had to just roll my eyes (as usual). I wish horror film makers could figure a way around this cliche of cliches.

      The most obvious problem I had with the movie was the set-up time. The girls get together at a cabin and we see them bullshitting and drinking and smoking pot with one another the night before what is sure to be a very exhaustive journey. After that, we get to see them driving to the spot, which takes another ten minutes of watching SUVs cruise down a dirt road.

      Predictable as a thunder clap after a lightning strike. I knew exactly when the baddies were going to show up and when. I knew who the first to die would be the second she showed her face on screen. I admit I didn't guess the second death in the proper chronological order, but her time came too.

      There are a few things that were just preposterous, that just removed any semblence of believability. It would be classic spoiler material for me to point them all out, but when they (one specifiaclly) happened, I just thought, "What!!? Please." Oh yeah, and the end...the very end threw me for a complete loop. I didn't get it at all. Email me and explain it to me please.

      But Drew, you may be asking, you gave it a thumb in the middle rating. Yes. There are several factors that made this movie more than bearable; and actually pretty fun. First of all, the make-up and the gore. For fans of Fangoria magazine, this film is your wet dream. The last 20 minutes or so is blood blood blood. You won't find more blood in any film of the last 10 years I don't believe. It was super cool, although almost laughably so.

      Secondly, the ambience and tone of the whole thing. Once we enter the cave, the only things we can see are those lit by the flares and flashlights the women brought with them. It provides for excellent camera shots that give a great feel of claustrophobia and disorientation. We're never sure exactly where we're at or where we should move to. Also, the tenseness. Although predictable, you may find yourself clutching fairly hard on your armrest or significant other. From the small, dark crevices we're thrust into, to the "can't look away" knowledge that something evil or crazy is going to happen any second, it is very intense and does require you to cut your fingernails before entering the theater.

      The creatures. Again the make-up department kicks ass. This movie was produced with a very minimal budget and no CGI (well there is some, but when you see it, you may laugh at the fakiness of it). But the main creatures LOOKED AWESOME and were freaky as hell. The sound crew did a great job with their sounds as well. The first couple of times you get a glimpse of them is really neat film making and I foresee Marshall going far with a bigger budget and a better story.

      I guess it just comes down to this: the story and ideas are really nothing new and I was sorely let down after reading initial reviews. Very similar films like Pitch Black are infinitely better. Sure the creatures are neat and the blood squirting everywhere is cool, but that just doesn't make up for lack of story or originality. I get the fact that it was made on a small budget, but so was Blair Witch. Again, not horrible, just not living up to the hype for me and I could tell others in the theater felt the same as we left.

Links: - full cast and crew
Official Site