The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Descent (2006)

The Descent (2006)

Starting about eight months ago, I started hearing rumors about a British horror film called “The Descent,” directed by the same guy (Neil Marshall) who created “Dog Soldiers,” a superior if low-budget werewolf film from a couple of years back.

Well, I finally saw it yesterday, and I’ve got good news and bad news.  The good news is that this is good, grueling, tense horror dealing with six women spelunking in an Appalachian cave a year after a disaster struck their group.  Those who don’t want to know more should stop reading now.
The six women are MUCH better realized than victims…er, protagonists in most horror films.  Enough better that I wish Marshall had gone all the way there.  There were conversations left unfinished, questions unasked, emotional through-lines that felt choppy and unsatisfying.  All of this is a tribute to what works, however.  There are beasties down in the cave, and I 90% believe them, but there were moments when, frankly, I did not.  So these creatures are blind…hunt by hearing alone…and have been good enough at blind hunting to support an actual underground colony.  Well, that’s too good for these women to survive in some of the situations we see.

Further, they may be blind, but the “Crawlers” would certainly feel heat. There is at least one scene where a “Crawler” virtually walks right over a flaming torch without noticing it.  I popped completely out of my disbelief there, and that’s damaging in a film like this.

That said, the acting, most of the effects, and the sound design are excellent. The set design—all of that cave stuff was filmed in a studio…is terrific.  And the movie generates real fear.  But I just can’t give it an “A.”  A “B” is what Descent earns, in my book…if you happen to LOVE intense horror.  If not, it’s probably a “C” or less.

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