The Descent Neil Marshall

Thank god for The Descent. In an age where horror flicks have become stale, predictable and unoriginal (largely because so many of them are remakes), it’s no wonder Neil Marshall’s film made such a big impression on those who saw it. However, It’s difficult to know what to expect at first from The Descent; Sarah’s (Shauna Macdonald) life-changing accident is a humdinger of an intro that provides much-needed context for the film’s shockingly blurry finale. After the intro it appears to become Deliverance, as a group of "six chicks with picks” go off into the wilderness for a retreat — a much needed getaway for Sarah, who suffers nightmares about the loss of her husband and daughter. Descending into an unexplored cave (a fact known only to expedition leader Juno), the women soon find themselves facing undesirable obstacles: permanent darkness, cave-ins, claustrophobia and some nasty primitive cave dwellers with a taste for human flesh. Marshall admits that The Descent is a continuous homage to the horror films he grew up with and that’s surprising a surprising revelation. There are some obvious nods (like the aforementioned one to Deliverance) but for the most part, this is a bloody good and inventive piece of modestly budgeted filmmaking. His use of light and space — both of which favour the "less is more” theory — are phenomenal and responsible for the film’s devastating impact. Just as effective are the "crawlers,” who are some of the most frightening creatures imaginable. Marshall’s commentary with the cast is animated but gets a little crowded at times when the giggling takes over. He fares better with fellow crewmembers, who give a more detailed and clearer account of how the film was made. A lengthy featurette takes us behind the production, including extensive looks at just how modest the set was and the concerns of the cast and crew over claustrophobia. In "DesENDING,” the director explains the ambiguous conclusion and how two versions were designed, one for the U.S. and one for the UK, to please both sensibilities. Plus: deleted scenes, outtakes, biographies, stills. (Maple)