Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Thoughts on the film: The Descent

I'm not a big fan of modern horror films, so it took me a while to get around to watching The Descent. It seems like every horror film these days is over-the-top gore. What happened to being scared? What happened to the days when you got to know the characters before the serial killer started taking them out? I miss those days.

So thank goodness for The Descent. I was one a female protagonist kick, so I finally Netflixed it because it's a film starring only women, women who are kind of badass and voluntarily do things you could not pay me a bazillion dollars to do, like go spelunking in the middle of nowhere and crawl through teeny tiny corridors where they could easily get stuck and then trapped and eaten by evil creatures that probably evolved from people and are hanging out in the cave in the dark waiting for brave ladies to eat.

Spoiler warning, but everybody but me has probably already seen this movie anyway.

Nobody died for the first hour. Instead, we spend the time getting to know the women. I remember something about each character - Sarah lost her husband and child, Juno was having an affair with Sarah's husband, Holly is a brash action junkie, Beth is the nicest person alive, Rebecca has an incredible amount of upper body strength and hutspa, and her little sister Sam is studying to be a doctor. I learned this and remembered it, and as a result I cared about every single person in this story. When someone died, I was distressed. There are no expendable characters here.

Even though none of the girls died within the first hour, I was still on the edge of my seat because of some terrific camera angles and good creepy music.

The suspense, the action, the character development, all excellent. Maybe too excellent. See, Juno is supposed to be the bad guy who deserves to die because she takes dangerous chances and was having an affair with our protagonist's husband - an affair that was never actually stated, something else I loved about this film - but I never felt like she deserved to die. I LIKED Juno. When the evil creature grabbed her friend Holly and tried to take her body, Juno didn't hesitate. She was unafraid. She grabbed a weapon and started swinging while everybody else ran and hid. Immediately I forgave Juno for the affair. And when she accidentally killed Beth because the silly girl snuck up behind her in the middle of a homicidal creature killing rage, I can't really blame her for that either.

So in the end when Sarah left Juno for dead, I was disgusted with Sarah. I don't think that's how I was supposed to feel.


The unrated version has a different ending than the theatrical. In the end of the theatrical version, Sarah escapes alone, gets in the car and drives off, freaking out all the way. In the unrated on DVD version, after Sarah pulls the car over, she wakes up and realizes it was all a dream and she's still in the cave with the evil creatures.

So everybody dies and you faked me out with a long ass dream sequence? Does that mean Juno is still alive, wandering around in the cave, looking for Sarah? Killing Juno was part of Sarah's dream sequence, so I guess yeah, Juno is somehow still alive. Or something.

This is why you shouldn't play around with "it was all a dream" in your story. Also, pick an ending.

I thought this was the ending, so I called Beefcake and was like "So they all die in the end? WTF." And he informed me that in the original ending, Sarah escaped.

So now I'm not sure what the message was in the film.

But endings aside, this was the kind of film I miss in the horror genre. I was scared shitless watching this because I wasn't grossed out. The gore factor is relatively low, the scare factor very high, and there's no torture porn anywhere. And I cared about these women very much. That's how horror films should be made.


  1. It was a good flick.

    And, I believe the sequel should answer a few questions re: the end.

  2. I really like The Descent, too, for many of the reasons you list. Just a great twist on the classic horror film setup of people trapped somewhere with monsters after them. I believe Juno's big sin wasn't so much the oopsie with the pick, but the "leaving you to die so nobody finds out what I did" part.

    Patrick Sweeney
    I Blame Ninjas

  3. See I didn't see it that way. I saw it as Oh shit I didn't meant to kill I'm sorry you I got to get the hell out of here.

    Holly was dead. Beth was dead. Crazy creatures were trying to eat everybody. Juno was freaked right out. She should have apologized, but I don't think her reaction was that horrible.

  4. Have to mention again, since she's nominated for Best Director, but if you haven't seen Bigalow's first film NEAR DARK yet, you're really missing out on something I thought was pretty cool. Just my opinion.


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