Quantcast FIRST LOOK: THE DESCENT review

FIRST LOOK: THE DESCENT (July. 06) by Mike C.

No, you did not see this movie last year when it was called "The Cave". "The Descent" is a film with a similar premise (scary cave) with a completely different execution (it doesn't suck). This film is also finally being released in the US after a run overseas (where it's already available on DVD), and it's got over a year of positive hype within the horror community. So yea, this film doesn't just have backpacks...it's got baggage. Can it make audiences forget there was a sucky cave movie last summer and does it live up to the hype? I hope so...and yes, overwhelmingly, yes!

From the beginning this isn't a film that's going to follow your standard horror rules. The all female cast tips you off to that, but so does the fact that these aren't the kind of gals you're going to see running around the woods half naked, screaming. They're mostly tough, smart, and know what they're doing. When the more experienced climber Juno tries to help out Sarah she quips, "You know, I have done this before". They didn't just stumble unwittingly into a cave to be eaten by monsters. It makes all what comes later even more tragic and frightening.
The film opens with a scene that seems lifted from the film "Dead Calm", being several months prior to the cave exploration, with the tragic death of Sarah's younger daughter in a car crash. It's strange that a film so strong opens so typically. I was a little concerned this film would soon head into spooky little girl territory, but no way, "The Descent" soon sets itself apart from other recent horror efforts.
What happens? Look, if you've seen the cover of the latest Fangoria you probably have an idea, but I'm not about to give anything away. I'm not saying because it will ruin your enjoyment of this movie to know too much (and I've probably said enough). All I'll say is that by the middle of the movie even if nothing really scary or unusual was going to happen, "The Descent" had already put me firmly on the edge of my seat, palms sweaty, stuck in a very claustrophobic nightmare. They're not in the cave they thought they were, their friend threw away the guidebook, and passageways in the cave are unstable and prone to collapse. You don't need monsters in this movie and it's already grabbed you.
Ok, but you probably know you're getting monsters. Again, I've said too much! Just know that these are some very unique and frightening creatures. Neil Marshall knows how to introduce these things to you in a way that literally made me shudder. Once things do get nasty and violent, there are still enough surprises in "The Descent" to make even this hardened horror fan jump out of his seat.

As a side note, the ending shown on my international DVD copy of "The Descent" will be altered in the American theatrical release. While the edited ending sounds patronizing to US audiences, I'm sure this will not dramatically impact the overall effect of this tense, extremely well made film.

- Mike C.

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