SPECIAL BIRTHDAY EDITION!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY NEIL MARSHALL!
And to celebrate the birthday of one of my favorite new generation filmmakers, I review my favorite of his films! (Though, I like them all!)
THE DESCENT (2005)
Our chilling story begins with the tragic death of the husband and daughter of Sarah, (Shauna Macdonald) one of six adventure seeking friends. A year later, group leader, Juno (Natalie Mendoza), decides to take Sarah and the rest on an underground cave exploring expedition. But the overzealous Juno has tricked them into exploring a supposedly undiscovered system and soon they become trapped inside with no one but the cave’s carnivorous inhabitants knowing where they are.
Writer/director Neil Marshall creates a truly scary and suspenseful roller coaster ride as these six women get lost in this undiscovered system and worse yet, find out they are not alone. The Descent is a claustrophobic and tense experience even before the creatures show up. With the tension between group members and of the cave-in that traps them inside, the film would have been entertaining and satisfying enough had that been the extent of it’s story. But it is a horror film and cave dwelling carnivores soon show up and when they do, the real nightmare begins for our spelunking sweeties. One of the reasons Descent is so successful is that the women are all likable three dimensional characters and there is some really nice and realistic interaction and banter between them. They are a diverse and likable group and even Juno has her positive qualities though, her actions do make her very morally questionable. Marshall gets really good performances out of his sextet of heroines and It has impact when they come to harm. And Marshall doesn’t spare them, or us, when they do, it’s brutal and bloody. But these ladies also give as good as they get when it comes to fighting back and the last third is quite a bloodbath. Marshall also ups the ante by adding a personal conflict that develops between the two leads Sarah and Juno, that adds an extra dynamic and gives an extra dramatic punch to an already pulse pounding finale.
The production looks good and Marshall makes maximum use of his setting. The cave itself becomes a character as Marshall filmed the movie using only the light the girls themselves are using, to light the scenes. It gives a better illusion that the viewer is there with our heroines as they move through the underground labyrinth and creates a really claustrophobic atmosphere that adds to the suspense and dread. As for the cave’s inhabitants, they are kept in shadows and seen briefly, which keeps them mysterious and scary and Marshall even imbues them with a bit of character so they become more real to his audience and more than just monsters. The make-up and gore effects bringing these creatures and their carnage to gruesome life are also top notch.
Very intense, very scary, very gory and one of the best horror flicks of the last decade. Watch it in the dark, but not alone! Also staring Alex Reid as Beth, MyAnna Buring as Sam, Saskia Mulder as Rebecca and Nora-Jane Noone as Holly. Buring and Noone were also featured in Marshall’s fun Escape From New York/Road Warrior mash-up Doomsday (2008).
An intense and gory 4 cave critters!