Monday, 25 August 2014

The Descent (2005)

There's a 15-second sequence, early in this film, where a great deal of information is conveyed without a word being spoken.  Right there, I thought "The rest of this movie could suck, and I'll be glad I saw it, because that's a mighty fine piece of film-making."

As it happens, the rest of this movie does not suck.  It's actually a very competently made horror film with a strong cast.  Of course, the fact that it's a horror film is part of why it's only getting a qualified recommendation.  As someone whose mother hides behind a cushion when watching the 'tense' bits in action movies, I'm well aware that not everyone is into scary movies!

The other reason that this gets a qualified recommendation is that I think the first half is a much more interesting and scary film than the second half.  Frankly, the arrival of the monsters - because yeah, there are monsters - makes the movie less tense, to my mind.  In the first half, we focus on the friendships and rivalries between the (all female) cast and the dangers and challenges of spelunking: challenges that become much more dangerous when a rockfall blocks the cave behind them and they realize they're not in the system they thought they were.

If the film had just then been about their struggle to get out of the caves, while their interpersonal issues (which were so eloquently and silently established in that scene I mentioned at the start of this review) came to the surface and threatened to break the group apart, then I think I would be raving about this film and telling everyone to go see it.

Instead, we get monsters.  They're neat enough monsters, but after the initial impact of their arrival has worn off, we still have the last half hour of the film to get through, and the scenes of hiding and fighting from them start to feel a bit repetitive, which undermines the tension.  And the ending - either of them, since there are two different ones depending whether you see the US or UK edition - is a bit underwhelming.

Those quibbles aside, however, if you like scary films, you should see this.  It's good.  I just think that if it had gone in a different direction, it could have been great.

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