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Chicks in a Cave, Heart-Pounding Movie Action

Posted by Robyn / August 9, 2006

the%20descent.jpg the%20descent%20-%20fighting.jpg

The Descent is an awesome, awesome movie.

I love rollercoasters, but part of that love is because the ride is over in under a minute or two. It boosts your adrenaline, then dumps you out to wander around shaking and giggling and free to purchase sugary snacks that further alter your body chemistry so that you decide going on the ride five more times is a totally great idea and is not going to make you barf.

Whereas this 90-minute horror movie doesn't even give you a break to make such an ill-advised decision. You're STRAPPED IN for the long-haul, accept it, do not avert your eyes, you sucky baby, it's only a movie.

Agh, but these new fangled movie theatres with their surround sound and comfy seats and screens that fill up pretty much every inch of peripheral vision, break down the audience/it's-only-a-movie barrier a lot. Maybe too much. Maybe I get too involved in movies. Whatever, other people screamed too. I heard them.

Why The Descent is not only a good horror movie, but a good movie movie:

- It just looks scary, from the get-go. Grainy, dark, wet, cramped. If you're clausterphobic or hate the dark, this movie will freak you out. Hurrah! The sound alone is freaky: how the characters strain to listen for any little noise in the dark, the dripping, echoing caves, the screaming. Just as during the first ascent of a roller coaster, those 10 seconds of "Why the HELL did I do this?? Am I MENTAL? How do I get out of here, how??", 20 minutes into The Descent (yes, ascent/descent, that's right, I did it), I wished I wasn't there. And that's a good sign, when your heart starts beating fast even before the ride's really taken off.

- All-female cast! No man to come swooping in to save the day - it's about working together to achieve a common goal, but it's also about survival pure and simple. Is saving one's own ass instinctually the be all end all? Or are we "better than that"? Or does emotional conflict make us lose our minds somewhere in between? This film plays out dynamics of comraderie, love, bitchiness, and whatever it is that human nature is. Y'know, the true dynamics of close friendships (no matter how much of a hippie you are, you have at least rolled your eyes at your best friend more than once. But have you stabbed them with a rock-climbing pick? Have you?)

- There are no giant stars to distract from the plot/action (who will die??) and it's a British production (it came out there a year ago), relying more on character and tone than special effects. We all know horror movies don't succeed on special effects (thought these are good anyway.) Horror is about appealing to our base fears, our pscyhological weaknesses, the things we can't wave off as "fake." That said, the slimy, white, sharp-toothed cave-dwelling creatures are Totally Creepy and something you would run away from very very fast. (They reminded me of Orks crossed with Gollum crossed with hairless moles crossed with that gross white film you get on your tongue when you're sick.)

- It takes a while to leave your mind. Now, this could be good or bad in a movie, but in this case, I wasn't left so much with nightmares and needing to sleep with the light on (I'm looking at you, The Ring), as much as I was inspired to think about what I would do in such a circumstance, not necessarily a cave, but something of similar adrenaline levels where survival over-rides all else. Because it could happen - I don't want it to happen, but it does happen all over the world, so questioning oneself in this vein is not all that far-fetched. DEEP stuff, (yes, descent/deep, I said it.) Sincerely, by the end I was extremely wired AND moved. No, I did not cry.

The jist of all this is that good psychological horror movies don't come along that often. And psychological horror movies that have good characters, strong women, and Scary Monsters in them come along so rarely that they need to be shouted about. YES!

(And it's playing at the AMC F0rum, so you can double-bill it (you know what I'm talking about) with, say, A Scanner Darkly. Total discombobulation-land. I'm not even going to attempt to chronicle last night's dream state.)



marisolle / August 10, 2006 at 02:42 pm
You're totally right. Special effects in scary movies don't do anything for the viewers anymore and me and my friends leave the movie theatre feeling disappointed. I think the scariest movie I've ever seen is the Excorcism of Emily Rose because it was so realistic and as you said .. things are scary when you can't wave them off as fake.
Even if as you said .. movies are a long 90 minutes or over, I still prefer them over the roller-coaster ride. =p
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