The Descent (2005)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Descent</strong> (2005)

(In theaters, August 2006) The advance hype of this film was frightful, so let us correct one misconception from the start: This is not one of the greatest horror films of all times. It is, on the other hand, a very decent entry in the genre, and that’s not bad considering the adolescent dross that usually gets released in theatres as “horror” nowadays. As far as premises go, writer/director Neil Marshall knows where to go: By locking up his feuding heroines in a cave along with a bunch of monsters, he gets claustrophobia, paranoia and terror all wrapped up in a neat package. People who are afraid of the dark should stay away: once the rocks fall, the monsters emerge and old feuds are uncovered, don’t bet on anyone making it to the end credits without severe damage. Alas, if the film may work as a thriller it’s somewhat limited in other aspects. While the script designates Shauna Macdonald as the recipient of our sympathies, my own affections lay firmly with can-do Asian cutie Natalie Jackson Mendoza, dividing the impact of the inevitable face-off between the two. I also suspect that I’ll be in a minority in shaking my head at the ecosystematic unlikeliness of the monsters and how their population is completely unsustainable in this given environment. Then there’s the growing repetitiveness of the last act: monsters, girls, death, repeat. Still, while these flaws may damage my enjoyment of the film, they don’t take away from the fact that Marshall has crafted a better-than-average horror film. The Descent may be completely humourless, but it’s earnest in its intent to do anything to scare its viewers. Some jump-scares are effective and others aren’t (much like the quick-cutting works in some instances and not in others). While The Descent won’t leave any lasting chills (for that, the North-American distributors may have considered keeping the original longer ending), it’s a respectable entry in the horror genre and not one of those made-for-retarded-teens films that can be dismissed even as they’re rolling. It certainly makes me curious about Marshall’s next effort.

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