Doing a horror movie properly
It’s often hard to find a really good horror movie. You either get films that have too many ‘jump-scares’ plastered over lazy filmmaking (see Paranormal Activity) or where it is a quality movie that doesn’t give off many scares (see Psycho). Thankfully, The Descent manages to be both scary and quality filmmaking.
Like most horror movies, the plot is simple enough. A group of thrill-seeking women set out go spelunking. They quickly get lost and soon discover that they are not alone in the dark, as creatures begin to pick them off, one by one. It is this cavernous setting that helps the movie succeed. Since they are stuck underground, the movie becomes scarier when it is drenched in darkness. However, filming in total darkness is obviously useless, so the director adds lighting from the colourful glow-sticks and helmet lights on the characters. This creates wonderfully distinct ‘green’ and ‘red’ caverns, so that we are not stuck in the dark, but rather we must deal with eerie corners and shadows. As well, since they are dangerously climbing through caves, you feel an extra level of claustrophobia and intensity (creatures notwithstanding).
Another one of the factors that contributes to the film’s success is that the director actually takes time to develop his characters. Not like in Cloverfield, where you become sick of their obnoxiously shallow traits. The women in The Descent are enjoyable and you feel for them. This is something horror movies rarely get right. The music was also amazing, as it evoked inevitable dread, much like the opening music in The Shining.
Unlike The Shining, this is not a perfect movie. It contains numerous dream cop-outs. Or fake-outs, another unfortunate trope of the horror genre. This is when the film begins a sequence (usually with snappy jump-scares) and ends suddenly, when we realize it was all a dream. Don’t worry, the movie doesn’t end like that, but this does happen quite a few times throughout. Also, this is an intense horror film, so those who do not do well with a little bit of gore should stay away.
Summary: The simple premise and claustrophobic setting creates a thrilling and scary journey into the dark. This is a quick and atmospheric horror movie that is one of the best in the past decade. It is my #323 of the 1544 movies I’ve seen [on flickchart.com].