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“The Descent-Movie Review”
Wayne A. Klein
Studio: Lion’s Gate/Horror/8/1/06
Genre: Horror

“The Descent” proves that the road to redemption and the road to recovery are often paved with the bones of distant memories, ghosts and friends. Neil Marshall’s first film “Dog Soldiers” inverted the paradigm for horror films featuring werewolves and cleverly used the template of “Aliens” creating a memorable beast all its own. Marshall now does the same thing for spelunking. One year after a tragedy that affects Sarah (Shauna MacDonald) she and her buddies Juno (Natalie Jackson Mendoza) and Beth (Alex Reid) meet up with three other women on their annual outdoor pilgrimage. In the past they’ve done climbing, white water rafting and other extreme sports. This year Juno has chosen the Appalachian Mountains and a series of underground caverns for them to explore. They get lost. Their friendships sour as they find they are being hunted by vicious creatures that have no fear. ***

A tense thriller with a decidedly unusual spin due to Marshall’s decision to cast all women in the primary roles “The Descent” may not break new ground but Marshall’s film does once again play with the conventions of the genre in a number of striking ways. Retooled since its premiere in the UK and Europe last year the film’s new ending is decidedly different from the previous one only because a minute of footage has been cut and the inclusion of one creepy shot (the original ending can be found on the web at I should warn you that if you haven’t seen the film it’s the last 10 minutes of the film and there ARE significant spoilers) bu t it doesn’t change the overall impact of the film or the strong performances in this estrogen based thriller. ***

Like “Dog Soldiers” Marshall is able to create these characters with an almost minimalist brush stroke and yet make them distinct and memorable. Working with greater resources for his second theatrical film as a director Marshall takes a step up creating a film that at once works on a personal level by creating a believable bond between these women and hinting at much greater depth than is portrayed in the film. Likewise Marshall also carefully crafts a film that withholds the “crawlers”* (as they are referred into in the credits) until the last possible moment making them quite menacing and unpredictable. Unlike a lot of horror films released within the past year “The Descent” actually takes the pains to develop a story with a m etaphorical twist to the title making it more than just “another horror film”.

Final Words:

In a year of dreary remakes (and promising more as I sat through trailers for “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning” and a remake of the classic 70’s thriller “The Wicker Man” with Nicholas Cage stepping into the role so memorably brought to life by Edward Woodward) “The Descent” doesn’t pretend to be the most original horror/thriller of the year but, instead, takes a conventional situation and twist


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