A Letter To Elia
Martin Scorsese narrates and co-directs a documentary on the late filmmaker Elia Kazan
On Film4: 20 Apr 2:50AM
Six friends on a caving trip find themselves trapped underground - where they're not alone. Horror from Neil Marshall, writer-director of Dog Soldiers
Neil Marshall's 2002 debut feature film Dog Soldiers isolated a group of men in the back-country of Scotland where they fought for their lives against werewolves. His follow-up The Descent sticks to the same basic formula but inverts it somewhat -his protagonists are women, the setting is a cave system beneath the Appalachian mountains and the foes aren't werewolves - they're like a less civilised version of the orcs from The Lord Of The Rings.
So, claustrophobia - check. Scares - check. Gore - check. Cast picked off one by one - check. The Descent is very much by-the-numbers filmmaking, but it's built on a strong premise (comparable to 2005's other subterranean horror The Cave) that is highly effective, with striking imagery of pale creatures in the pitch blackness, caverns aglow from flares, and bloodied and bruised actresses lit by dwindling torches.
Other memorable touches include a 360-degree shot as one of the girls dangles from the ceiling of a cave, struggling with a creature, and the emergence of sort-of lead Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) from a pool of blood, looking like Martin Sheen's Willard as he rises from the river in Apocalypse Now, stony faced and determined.
There are no stand-out performances per se and it's not a sophisticated story but, like Dog Soldiers before it (and the ruling champs of the dying-off-one-by-one genre Alien and The Thing), it's compelling and exciting, the horrors of the cave brought to life with grim vigour.
There are inconsistencies and frustrating ambiguities, but this is another reliable, vigorous horror experience for genre fans.
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