Friday, August 18, 2006

OT: Descent Review and General Feelings on Scary Movies

It is not manly for me to admit, but I am a big baby when it comes to scary movies.

There, I said it.

I may have been scarred as a child. One of my earliest movie memories is watching Jaws at the Burlingame Drive-in in my parents Volkswagon Bug. I think the scene where Dreyfuss goes down and finds the head popping out from the hole in the ships hull may have been it. Wasn't expecting that...

Maybe it was years later when VCRS were making their big splash, and as a family, we would be invited over to other peoples houses for movie nights. Thus, I was exposed to the likes of The Shining and Don't Look Now. Movies that my parents wouldn't have brought me to in the theatres, but now that they were on TV, somehow that decision-making process was short-circuited.

The real deciding factor, or nail-in-the-coffin (sorry), was 1978's Dawn of the Dead. I think I was about twelve or thirteen at my 6-year younger cousin's birthday sleepover. That movie just unhinged me... I can't watch a zombie movie, though I've seen most of them... it's a moth-to-flame kind of thing for me: I'm horrified and I'm fascinated. Maybe it's the theme of isolation, maybe it's the whole end of the world scenario... there's a doctorate thesis there somewhere for me.

On my own, I pretty much avoid most scary movies unless there's some kind of artistic angle I can get into... Silence of the Lambs is one of my favorite movies, but more for its psychological dimensions and artistic execution than for the serial killer porn that it has since inspired. Somewhere along the way, I managed to hook up with a girl who LOVES scary movies, and not just scary movies, but gore too. I never would have known...

To maintain a healthy relationship, periodically I "man-up" and take her to a scary movie (I imagine this is the payback for taking her to see all the dumb, frat-boy humor comedies). Which brings me to Descent. [SEMI-SPOLIER ALERT]

Story-wise, it reminded me of Dead Calm. Woman suffers traumatic personal loss and has horrific, yet cathartic, adventure. (I find it interesting that horror/thriller movies with women protagonists always take on moral dimensions, and I wonder it that can be traced back to stuff like the Grimm fairy tales).

I really liked it. It deftly sets up the characters, giving them just enough realistic characterizations without over-explaining or tipping its hand too much. I loved the monsters... good, realistic flesh chompers that don't make an appearance until halfway through the movie. Once they appear, though, things pretty much continue as they would have anyway (I'm thinking about that other movie The Cave, where once the monsters appear, it turns into an action movie with big set pieces).

The movie just builds and builds the tension all the way to the end, but not in an unbearable way.

My only problem was the ending. The movie does so well... and out of nowhere we get a schlocky jolt as the very last shot of the movie. Only by doing a little online research did I discover, accidentally, that US movie-goers are getting short-changed. They pulled a Brazil (or Blade Runner if you will) and gave us a happy(er) ending. The US ending makes no sense, while the uncut one, though a bit ambiguous from what I read, actually pays off a lot of elements peppered throughout the movie.

Though, despite this, I heartily recommend Descent, flaws and all. It's a smart piece of film.



At 4:01 PM, Blogger Reel Fanatic said...

I thought I could handle all horror films until I saw the recent Wolf Creek .. this one just creeped me out way too much ... As for Descent, I haven't made it yet, but I plan to before it slithers out of the multiplex


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