Monday, January 08, 2007

The Anti-Chick Flick: The Descent

For those of you who follow my blog, you may remember that I have a theory about movies.

Most films come in pairs.

For "Armageddon", there was :"Deep Impact."

For "DaVinci Code," there was "National Treasure."

For "The Hills Have Eyes," there was "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre."

You get the idea.

So I was shocked at my own surprise when I learned that a recent review, "The Cave", had its own twin:

"The Descent."

This was a bold movie. for a few reasons.

The first is an all-female cast.

As any good horror buff knows, women usually serve one of two purposes in a film:

A love interest who is cosntantly running away from and into danger.


A friend who remains upbeat until the monster/psycho kills her.

Rarely does Jamie Lee Curtis show up as the heroine.

So it's quite a powerful move to remove testosterone from the cinematic equation.

This film begins with a veritable "we, who are about to die, salute you" introduction. Three girls travel down some rapids whilst the family watches on. After surviving the lackluster water, the girls head on home. But tragedy is only a turn away.

Since the husband of the heroine, Sarah (I'm not gonna bother giving you an actress's name here--all these girls are UK gals and really just up-and-comers), is obviously cheating with the oh-so-hot Juno, he is distracted and crashes into another car.

A car carrying javellines.

While we only see a pole go through dear hubby's head (and yes, we really get a nice shot of that one), we are left to assume that the little girl gets shishka-bobbed as well.

Sarah awakens in a hospital after a BIZARRE dream involving a birthday cake. And thus our tale begins.

Now this is where it all gets...out of place. You see, most horror films use the following techniques to stimulate the audience:

Sound--scary music and sound effects (not to include "The Grudge" and its use of the death rattle)

Lighting--the darker the better (hence a cave being a nice little place to die in horror movies)

And of course, creepy visions and hallucinations, especially those involving a child's laugh.

Now, I hate to go on a tangent (actually, I love it above all things, but you have to say "I hate" in order to keep up the impression that this whole thing isn't really an ego trip for me) but I need to ask: Why is it that a child's laughter is the scariest damned thing on earth?

I mean, aren't children supposed to be cute and represent absolute trust and love?

Since when are they the scariest demons and make you want to ram an ice pick through their puppy dog eyes?


OK, let's forget that last remark.

Never happened, wasn't typed, never thought it while on a subway in New York and some freaky kid with too-blue eyes was staring into my soul and whispering the words of THE BEAST!

Sarah and her friend Beth (not a severe hottie like Juno, but quite funny in a I'm-so-British-and-posh-yet-cheeky-as-well kind of way) go to meet Juno in America with some of their other friends.

This is the part of the movie generally called "Getting to know your disposables."

What makes this segment seperate from other films in the genre is the lack of scare tactics. Nothing jumps out, no music queues up to facilitate the crawling of skin...nothing.

It's like a chick-flick snuck into the editing room and mated with the original production.

Ignore the unintentional erotisicm.

This tone-base confusion actually works in the film's favor, setting up the scares later on. I enjoyed the bland lighting and rather quaint dialogue.

Granted the "Blair Witch" style plot twist came so fast you could almost have written it yourself. And the cheap jump scares start to pile up around the time they get to the first big cavern. I guess, about 40 minutes into the movie, its true colors begin to bleed through.

This is a B-movie, and don't forget that. When the writer/director Niel Marshall (of "Dog Soldier" fame) came up with the idea, he wanted "men in suits".


In the lackluster "The Cave", men were infected by a parasite that caused Batitis, or a complete and speedy mutation into a bat-man-thing.

In "The Descent", cavemen (yes...grunting, club wielding cavemen) became albino-toothed-crazy-men after only a few thousand years in a cave.

And boy do they like to eat people.

Before I go any further, I want to share a tidbit from the DVD. You see, master Marshall wanted his girls to really be scared of the creatures when they first interacted with them. The movie was shot almost in sequence (quite a feat in this day and age), so the scene where they encounter the bat-men happened after many double-take moments of "did we just see that?"

The director had his actors-in-suits hide in the scenery before the girls got on set, filmed a relatively tame scene, and then told the girls a monster had been there with them.

When they finally meet the creatures, the actor really snuck up on them, popped up into their faces, and sent the girls screaming off set.

Damn fine stuff.

Anyways, these are the silliest looking things ever. If you read "Weekly World News" (and I know some of you do) you'll recognize them as Batboy's closest cousins.

The actors inside the suits move very well, and it actually looks...creepy, in a Gollum-slept-with-a-reject-from-the-circus kind of way.

Juno (who is hot, for those of you who haven't followed so far) lied to her friends and took them to a secret cave no one else knows about, so when they inevitably get stuck after a cave-in, they must rely on their fracturing friendship to get them out.

The monsters really just add to the fun.

Using an all female cast means having horrible things happen to women, which is hard to watch. Call me old fashioned; I can take having some dude impaled on ineptly placed poles during a car accident, but watching a purdy girl lose her face to some buck-fanged bat-abortion really irks.

Since Sarah is lost her daughter and husband a year earlier, she's a little kilter. Throughout the movie she wanders off, explores creepy coves where no one should explore, and loses her mind.

She's basically a lia-freakin-bility the whole damn movie.

So when she watches the horrors that happen to her closest (and I'm assuming only, because this lady is really batshite crazy insane) friends, she unhinges and goes postal.

With a human bone as a club.

This movie was made with the knowledge that it was a B-movie. The director says so in the extras. And you know what?

They made it.

This film is a B-movie. That means you can expect all the gore and ridiculous events of any good ol' horror flick.

That also means about half of you will write me telling me how much you hate/loved this movie.

See, that's what is so great about these films. They appeal to certain audiences and repel others.

If I had to rate this movie, I'd go with finding-a-hundred-dollars-in-your-pocket-only-to-remember-you-owe-your-friend-85. It's not that good, but you saw it coming, so you still can enjoy it.

Wait....that analogy made no sense.

But niether does the idea of a caveman-turned-batboy.

Watch carefully.


Anonymous said...


and start proof-reading, sir. silly spelling mistakes are no good at this point in the game.

Mems said... I saw this movie on a cold, rainy night at my friend B's lakehouse with picture windows & I have to say, that despite how crappy it was, I did jump several times.
By the way, you need to learn how to use a spell check.