Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween Spooktacular # 2: The Descent

Upon my second viewing of this film, I managed to confirm what I had originally suspected: this is one of the best non-comedic horror movies to come out in years, More than that, though, it’s one of the few horror movies I’ve ever seen that I would consider to be genuinely scary and doesn’t just do the standard “Oh look, here’s something jumping out from off-screen while the soundtrack screams at me” nonsense.

This is the second film from director Neil Marshall, whose debut film Dog Soldiers I think ranks as possibly the very best werewolf movie of all time, despite its crappy ending. This is even better, focusing on an all-female group of friends who, years after a personal tragedy broke them apart, are attempting to rekindle their old bonds by going cave diving in the Appalachian Mountains. Naturally, Everything Goes Wrong, and after a cave-in the group finds that one of them decided they should all be exploring a new path that nobody else has tried yet, so they have no rescue coming when they’re noticed missing, and so they have no choice but to find their own way out. Sadly, the other way out is somewhat blocked by an undiscovered species of cave-dwelling monsters that have grown very used to eating everything that comes within their range.

A screenshot from the movie?

It’s a fairly simplistic story, but the film is rather brilliantly directed, particularly in its usage of darkness. Put simply, I have never seen any other movie that uses a lack of light as well as this film does. Once they’re in that cave, there is no light but what the characters generate from their flashlights and flares, leaving a good chunk of each scene just coated in blackness. It’s creepy and claustrophobic and awful, especially since Marshall took the time to flesh out most of the characters so that they actually feel like real people rather than movie characters. The ending is also nicely ambiguous, as there are certain small clues left throughout the film that indicate that the actual story may not have quite played out the way we think it did.

Neil Marshall is currently working on his third film, an end of the world movie titled Doomsday. Apocalyptic doom films are like porn to me, and I am dying to see if he can top himself a second time. One can only hope.

Rating: ****

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