Film #218: The Descent (2005)

the-descentdirector: Neil Marshall
language: English
length: 99 minutes
watched on: 4 August 2016

We actually watched three films in one day – the first was The Purge and the second was actually Leon – but I’m not going to re-review that. I mentioned it when I reviewed Nikita, though. My thoughts haven’t changed a lot (Natalie Portman and Jean Reno’s relationship is still creepy), although the visual style is dated.

As for this movie, it’s very famous, and I was much more apprehensive about this movie than The Purge, because it’s actually straight-up horror in a way that the other isn’t. And apparently I talk a lot during the movie when I’m nervous – maybe, yeah, although I think I just talk during movies anyway. But like the last movie, it wasn’t nearly as bad to watch as I expected. I think I just had some bad experiences with horror when I was a child, such as The Witches (I had nightmares about that!), and it’s put me off. I still wouldn’t choose to watch it by myself – I’m still a wuss – but this is teaching me perhaps they’ll be OK.

It’s about some cavers who go astray and get lost in a cave, which turns out to (spoilers) have some monstrous post-humans in it, evolved away when a group of Swiss cavers got trapped (or something), cannibalistic and blind, so the characters have to walk around silently.

The first half of the movie is suspense, and in many ways was more scary and creepy than the second half, which becomes more jump-scares. Of course I get scared by them too, but there’s a certain predictability about jump-scares that there isn’t when it’s people getting trapped in a creepy cave.

One nice thing about this movie that you still don’t see enough is that the human characters are all women. (It was also nice to hear Scottish voices and a variety of accents in there, too.) Since all the monsters are played by men, I think, it lends a certain insidious aspect to it, like there’s a subtle implication of sexual violence, and I think this was deliberate on the part of the filmmakers, but it’s impossible to be sure.

Relatedly, we spent half the movie discussing who would be picked off first. Obviously the feisty one goes first, and the one who forgot to bring her pills for her mental illness is going to stick around. The others were interchangeable. There was a subplot that one of them had slept with the other’s husband, but I didn’t see the point in this argument – it just created drama where it didn’t need to be.

Anyway my main problem with the movie is the director’s cut ending. (So obviously spoilers coming up!) The original ending is that one of the characters escapes – the director’s cut ends with her realizing it’s been a schizophrenic dream and that she’s still in the cave. It’s signposted throughout the movie as her mental illness gets worse and worse – still, I get annoyed when I sit through ten to fifteen minutes of something that turns out to be unreal. On the other hand, since it’s in the realm of unreliable narrator, it does raise the question whether the whole experience was real or not. Or did she just kill all her friends – is she the monster? It’s not all bad, but it left a sour taste in my mouth right at the end.

And anyway, I’m eleven years too late to see this movie, but I liked it overall – I just think the original cut might be better.

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