Oct. 4: The Descent (2005)
'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0 Perhaps the best horror film of the last 10 years, Neil Marshall'92s The Descent will terrify you with its story of a group of women on a cave-exploring vacation gone horribly wrong.
'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0 Marshall'92s previous film was the rollicking horror-comedy Dog Soldiers, which was quite entertaining but didn'92t really suggest a capability for a film like this, a somber, harsh, claustrophobic journey that will chill you to the bone.
'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0 In the film, the main character, Sarah (Shauna McDonald), suffers a terrible personal tragedy at the beginning of the film, and a year later she hooks up with some friends to go caving somewhere in the Appalachian Mountains. She views the trip as a chance for her to reconnect with her friends and take her mind off her personal problems.
'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0 After a few scenes in which we get to know the various characters, including Sarah'92s best friend Beth (Alex Reid), and Juno (Natalie Mendoza), the girl who organized the trip, the group takes off for the cave.
'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0 It turns out that the cave was previously undiscovered and unnamed, and Juno thought it would be an adventure to be the first ones to explore it. The downside is that absolute no one knows where they are if things go wrong. And, of course, they do.
'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0 After some initial exploring, the girls find that the cave passages become too small for them to proceed, and after a collapse blocks their path behind them, the girls have to find another way out. Then things get really bad.'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0
'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0 The Descent has its share of gore and jump scares, which are all effective, but for me what was perhaps the most terrifying stuff of all was the incredibly claustrophobic section of the movie in which the girls are wriggling through ever-tighter cave passages, not knowing if they can find a way out.
'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0 Certain aspects of the film are quite original, but The Descent does have quite a few references in it to other films, such as The Shining, Aliens and The Silence of the Lambs, but the references don'92t call attention to themselves. The film on the whole has a really distinct look and tone, and is maybe the most effective and frightening horror film in recent memory.
'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0 When the film was released in the United States, a new ending was used, but do try to find the DVD with the original British ending. It'92s far better.
'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0 I don'92t want to spoil any of the film'92s ample scares, so I'92ll just say that you should do yourself a favor, and try to go into this film with as little prior knowledge as possible, and watch it in the darkest room you can find. You won'92t regret it.
If you like this, then check out:
'97'a0'a0'a0 Dog Soldiers (2002): Marshall'92s previous film before The Descent was this funny, action-packed horror flick about an army unit on maneuvers in Scotland that runs across some particularly nasty werewolves. It isn'92t as scary as The Descent, but it'92s a lot of fun.
'97'a0'a0'a0 Deliverance (1972): More rural horror, in this tale of four city slickers who want to go ride the rapids on a river in Georgia that'92s about to be dammed. But the locals don'92t take particularly kindly to them.