by Shrub 7/27/06
Love adventure? Love being outdoors? Nature, mountains and exploring uncharted territory? Well come along because the leading ladies in The Descent are just your kind of gals. Their relationships stretch across the pond, but they get together from time to time for some real thrill seeking.
The last trip consisted of whitewater rafting in the U.K., next time we meet it's in the Appalachian mountains for a little spelunking. The local girl and expedition leader, Juno (perhaps under the influence of Holly, the daredevil of the group) decides that the cave they planned to explore (and where they told people they would be) is a little too tame. It's for tourists. So without telling anyone, she leads the group to a cave that has yet to be charted.
Of course we don't learn that little detail until later. Other than the opening sequence which lays the groundwork for the psychosis that still plagues the main character Sarah (played by Shauna Macdonald) and continues to hang like a dark cloud over the friends, we're watching a pleasant mountain vacation unfold.
But let me just say. This is not a happy movie.
Fans of gritty American horror from the 70's, hang on. The Descent is a direct descendant of the bleak, sadistic, feel-bad thrillers of that legendary decade. The monsters are more modern (clearly a post-Alien concept) and like I said, it doesn't start out that way, but I'll even go so far as to say that, when all is said and done, it recaptures the vibe better than that higher profile throwback, The Devil's Rejects, the 70's influence never more evident than when Macdonald begins channeling Marilyn Burns during the film’s climax.
Something else that needs to be pointed out is that there are some really spectacular images that stay with you. Huge wastelands of gore emerge with victims finding themselves unceremoniously added to the pile, at times very aware of their fate. Epic mounds of bones reminiscent of the most lurid Lovecraft fiction, disgraceful death scenes and one very still and particularly mortifying moment when Juno’s pitch black eye reflects the hellish reality of the situation.
I'm writing this a week prior to wide release, so I won't go into too many details, but this movie goes from claustrophobic to brutal to savage... turning its screws on you all the way down. If you've seen the stills and previews, you may be wondering where all the blood comes from down in a cave. Well this is a true horror movie Bubba. And that's high praise.