Director: Neil Marshall
Fien Print Rating (Out of 100): 76
In a Nutshell: You'll have to forgive Lionsgate is you haven't heard of "The Descent." The company knows how to market films about sadistic game-playing serial killers (the "Saw" films), sadistic WWE wrestlers ("See No Evil") and sadistic international backpacker killers ("Hostel"), but the minute a film comes out that's genuinely scary, rather than sadistic, it becomes hard to get the word out. "The Descent" is by far the scariest movie of the year and it's probably the scariest movie I've seen in several years. A group of five interchangeable, but attractive, women decide to go spelunking in an unmapped cave in the mountains of North Carolina and they come face to face with some freaky, freaky stuff. It's very much like "The Cave," which came and went last August without making a ripple. The only difference is that director Neil Marshall builds the film to a point of impressive terror, creating a symphony of moods, easing viewers in with the banal banter between the ladies, turning the screw as things get a little bit hairy in the caves and finally going utterly haywire as the cave's long-term residents come out to play. The movie is full of sufficient brutal gore to satisfy the fans of sadistic torture, but it plays on more primal fears, claustrophobia, individual grief, the darkness. For a film with such an inevitably low budget, the special effects (makeup, mostly) are phenomenal. The creatures in the cave are actually able to stand up to close-ups, which is more than you can say for whatever was lurking in the shadows of "The Cave." While pleasing to the eye, none of the actresses are necessarily Shakespeare-worthy, but they're committed and they scream their heads off. It would make me sad to live in a world in which the stylish, brain-dead "Hills Have Eyes" remake could make more money than this piece of true horror, so I hope people turn out.
There may be a full review of this one up on Zap2it on Friday, Aug. 4. But maybe not. It's a busy week.