Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Pit Within Pit, Within Pit, Within Pit, Within...

The Descent(2005)
Directed By Neil Marshall

"The Descent" is a bleak, tragic, modern monster movie that manages to invert and avoids a few clichés if the old clichés. There is an usually palpable psychological horror at work in a this otherwise simple tale of a group of female cave divers descending into an uncharted cavern, getting lost and finding themselves battling albino mole people. The directing, sound, lighting, all contribute to the claustrophobic, dark, lost, nightmarish quality that all horror films seek but rarely achieve, that is captured really well here. Darkness itself is a major element in the film's style not jus it's horror tag line. I'm tired of CG ghosts with long hair in empty hallways and backwater slashers running through the woods. I don't mean to subtract too much from the story, but at the time this was coming out I think there was another horror film called, "The Cave", about basically the same scenario. "The Descent" was made first, and though their basically about the same thing, which is people fighting monsters in a cave, "The Cave" was every horror/action cliche you could imagine, while this managed to generate genuine suspense and a sense of ever increasing doom and claustrophobia, as well as the usual gore. Also it includes an all female cast, a rarity in horror films, especially since the characters are not just over-sexualized teens. What makes the film so effective is not just the literal horror created out of the sense of being thrown into a deep dark hole, but the psychological descent taken by the main character, who finds all the worst parts of herself in the same pit. Not to mention the movie has a smogesborg of allusions to movies, according to Roger Ebert (I've only managed to spot a few) like "Picnic at Hanging Rock", "Carrie," "2001: A Space Odyssey" "The Third Man," "The Fourth Man," "Don't Look Now," "The Blair Witch Project" "Vertigo," "Apocalypse Now", "Deliverance", "Dead Calm", and "Aliens".The film plays with a very primal myth of being lost in the dark and surrounded by terrible things. It evokes hellish visions, from paintings like (Francisco Goya's “Black Paintings” and Henry Fuseli's "The Nightmare") to gothic gargoyles and Gustave Dore's engravings for Dante's "Inferno." The tale also bares more than a passing nod to HP Lovecraft’s “The Lurking Fear”(down to the similarities of geographical descriptions). But even if your not so savvy on the post-modern interplay it's still, and most importantly, an effective adrenalyn shot for horror fans and casual viewers alike. Easily one of the best horror films of the past decade, which serves as a working example that a talented director (I wrote this before I watched his next film "Doomsday" mind you), writer, cast and crew can make any idea into something worth viewing. Make sure you watch the UK Ending too which really captures a sense of “cosmic horror” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmicism) and all consuming hopelessness, it's the icing on the cake, quite literally, while the US version which makes it possible for a sequel, is like all the air let out of a balloon-a balloon filled with farts.


Sam Cooper said...

I love how you ended that last paragraph.

Joe Sylvers said...

Thanks, it just came to me as I was looking at the last picture in the post. I had a long arguement with someone after I posted this about which version was better. I had just assumed everyone hated the US cut as much as I did. You live and you learn.