21 July 2006

Daughter Of Cinema Corner

25 Tammuz 5766

Right....so the other film I watched last weekend is Neil Marshall's The Descent. I had been curious about it since it was released in the theatre last year. Pixie's not a horror-film fan, so I agreed to watch it while she was doing some housework upstairs and away from the TV.

The story concerns a group of daredevil, adrenaline-junkie women who spelunk in the wrong cave at the wrong time. The film opens with a few of the women white-water rafting in Scotland. Juno (Natalie Mendoza), the sole American and "alpha-female" of the pack..Sarah (Shauna MacDonald), the level-headed Scotswoman and Sam (MyAnna Buring), a somewhat timid but adventurous Scandinavian. While returning home after the rafting--Sarah and her husband and daughter are involved in an horrific car accident, leaving her hospitalised and the others dead (her daughter dying quite violently). Juno high-tails back to The States (much is made of this later in the film)--and Sarah takes a year to pick up the pieces.

Juno reconvenes the group somewhere in the Appalachian mountains for a weekend of adventure. Each of the original three add another member to the group. Sarah is joined by Beth (Alex Reid), a schoolteacher and close friend. Sam brings her sister Rebecca (Saskia Mulder) and Juno invites Holly (Nora-Jane Noone), a spritely obnoxious Irish daredevil who enjoys scaling cathdrals and tall buildings. After a night of bonding over alcohol and macho girl-talk, they wake early and set off, follwing Juno's directions to the cave they will explore.

A fairly simple descent into the main chamber of the cave is undertaken. Juno somehow knows that the only way out of it is through a small tunnel at one side. They struggle through, but a panicky moment happens when Sarah becomes stuck. The rest of the group pull her to safety, just as the tunnel collapses, trapping them underground. While going over their options, one being that the local authorities will know they are down there and come to find them after a certain time, Juno reveals that they aren't in the "local tourist cave"--but an "unknown system". When confronted by the others as to why, she offers the feeble reason of "wanting to claim this place for us..for Sarah".

It's decided that they should press on and try to find another way out of the system. Soon, a bit of Lovecraftian paranoia descends when Sarah starts hearing strange chirruping sounds, then sees "a man" in one of the tunnels. The others, especially Juno, dismiss these as hallucinations and they continue making their way through the cave. A harrowing sequence occurs when they have to cross a deep chasm with just a couple of ropes--but everyone survives. Holly, thinking she's discovered the way out--slips into a hole and severly breaks her leg--leading to a gruesome scene where one of the group (Rebecca, maybe?) has to try and place Holly's broken bone back inside of her leg to splint it. They soon find themselves inside another large chamber and their flashlights are starting to fail. And then that chirruping noise starts again.

In one of the cleverest moments in the film--one of the group is looking through the night-vision screen of Holly's digital-video camera--when the "man" is seen standing just behind Juno. Only, it's not a man--it's like a cross between one of the orcs from "Lord Of The Rings" and the "Lamprey-Man" from "The X-Files". It scrambles up the cave wall and disappears into the dark. The girls try to make a break for it--but, of course, with Holly being injured and "the slow one"--she is attacked by the creature and becomes the first victim of the cave. There's a bit of a "Scooby-Doo" moment where the rest of the group become separated and Sarah loses conciousness. It also transpires that there isn't just one creature--but a whole tribe of them living in the cave.

The rest of the film covers the attempts of the remaining group to escape the cave while battling or avoiding the creatures. Juno gets tough and Sarah wakes up in the creatures' feeding pit, littered with the bones of their former victims, and gets tough herself. There is the usual "picked off one by one" element of a lot of horror films--but "The Descent" tries to depict that in a novel way as well. Throw in a couple of decent homages to other films (namely Carrie and Apocalypse Now) and a whole lotta symbolism (Sarah is metaphorically "re-born" not once, but twice in the film...and what about the name "Juno"--when the rest have monikers like 'Rebecca' and 'Beth'). I won't let on about the ending, in case you want to watch it--but it does throw you at first.

Overall, despite a couple of horror-film cliches (the "one-by-one" thing and the "foolhardy" member of the group who gets it first)--I liked "The Descent". The cast of (relative) unknowns held down the acting front and the suspense and direction seemed excellent to me. Even the CGI creature moments didn't look that bad. I watched this in the afternoon with the windows open and it still managed to creep me out. Well done, Mr. Marshall and cast!


Anonymous said...

Might get this on DVD. Girls and caves...something Freudian going on there.

The Purple Gooroo said...

Exactly, my man. I didn't want to go into a whole dissection of the symbolism--but to me, there's plenty there. One could prolly do a uni dissertation on it.

I might spring for the DVD sometime, too--definitely a new Brit horror classic