**** (out of 5)
August 4, 2006
Shauna MacDonald as SARAH
Natalie Mendoza as JUNA
Alex Reid as BETH
Saskia Mulder as REBECCA
MyAnna Buring as SAM
Nora-Jane Noone as HOLLY
Studio: Lion’s Gate
Directed by: Neil Marshall
BY KEVIN CARR
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I love scary movies. I always have loved them, ever since I first saw “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and “The Thing from Another World” with my dad at the local library when I was a kid.
The problem with scary movies nowadays is that Hollywood doesn’t always understand what makes a movie scary. Too often, they pull their punches, or worse yet, they’ll go for the campy, one-liner horror films like the Freddy Krueger sequels.
Recently, though, horror movies have had a bit of a comeback. I’m not talking about the ungodly number of bad horror films from 2005, like “The Ring Two,” “Hide and Seek” and “Boogeyman.” I’m talking about those from 2003 and 2004, which caused the year of Hollywood rip-off horror in 2005.
Some of the films that redefined the genre two and three years ago include “Cabin Fever,” “Shaun of the Dead,” “28 Days Later,” “The Grudge” and the “Dawn of the Dead” remake. It’s not surprising that “The Descent” was actually released last year in the U.K. as it rode the wave of horror revitalization. It’s release was delayed in the U.S. because of the dreadful film “The Cave” that puttered into cinemas last year. Finally, “The Descent” is seeing the light of day.
The story is relatively simple. A group of young women from Europe take an adventurous trip every year. From white-water rafting to mountain climbing, the group gets their kicks once a season. After one girl’s family dies in a freak car accident on the way home from one of these trips, the gang tries to make a special trip for her the next year. They have traveled to the Appalachian mountains in the U.S. and are planning on going spelunking.
However, when they get to the caves, it soon becomes obvious that their guide in the group has taken them into a series of uncharted caves instead of the safe ones. After a cave in, the girls get scared, but press on. However, when they soon realize that they aren’t alone in the cave system, things get bloody. Whatever’s in there with them isn’t exactly human, and it’s hungry.
Neil Marshall is the director of the cult hit “Dog Soldiers,” which premiered on the SciFi Channel here in the states. After getting a mild rating the U.K. (equivalent to the U.S. rating of PG-13), Marshall decided to go all out for a gutsy, gory, visceral horror film. The result is “The Descent.”
This film is a great horror movie. It’s shocking and scary. Marshall holds the attention and builds the suspense like a master. He doesn’t skimp on the violence or the gore, which only makes the movie that much more intense. As a life-long fan of horror movies, it’s fun to watch.
The make-up effects on the creatures is superb, and some of the best acting comes from the guys who bring the creatures to life. It’s nice that Marshall went for practical effects in many of the cases, because when the production dips into CGI work, the effects break down.
“The Descent” is a gripping journey into madness, and it doesn’t pull its punches at all. It’s not for everyone, but for horror fans, it’s a must see. And it has enough power behind it to possible go down in horror cinema history as one of the great films, much like “Alien” and “John Carpenter’s The Thing.”