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Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Descent (2005)

British director Neil Marshall’s latest film, The Descent, is a unique and intense horror film about a spelunking expedition gone terribly wrong. Shauna Macdonald stars as a young woman trying to escape the ghosts of her past—in this case, the ghosts of her husband and daughter, who are killed in a gruesome car accident three minutes into the film. Her type-A pal Juno (Natalie Mendoza) tries to help her recover by taking her and four other women on a caving expedition. The only problem is that Juno decides to take everyone into a cave that isn’t in any guidebook.

Naturally, some rock falls and traps them inside. This claustrophobic set up is scary enough as it is (the most frightening scene featuring the most grotesque broken leg in the history of film). Just when the audience is starting to feel the walls closing in, enter “the crawlers,” a species of cave-dwelling predators with nasty teeth and bat-like sonar.

The film breaks various horror conventions. Most striking is the fact that the entire cast is female. Furthermore, they are strong, competent females who are destroyed not by their stupidity or sexuality (as many horror films depict) but by selfishness and their unwillingness to stick together. It conveys a message of sisterhood that is rarely seen in horror films. There are no sex scenes, no nudity. The women, free from makeup and styling products, look like real cavers. Another departure is seen in the ways in which the characters die—while most horror films with small casts tend to kill off people one by one, The Descent breaks the rules, often killing more than one person at a time in unexpected ways that will really shock the audience.

Marshall borrows a few of his visuals and concepts from other famous movies, most notably Carrie and Night of the Living Dead. The Descent, however, is a very original piece of filmmaking—one that should not be missed. The film was made and released last year in the UK but is finally here in the US. Go see it!

The amount of money I’d pay to see this film: $7


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