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The Descent - Abgrund des Grauens (The Descent)
U.K. 2005

Opening 10 Nov 2005

Directed by: Neil Marshall
Writing credits: Neil Marshall
Principal actors: Shauna Macdonald, Natalie Jackson Mendoza, Alex Reid, Saskia Mulder, MyAnna Buring

Sarah (Shauna Macdonald), Juno (Natalie Mendoza), Jessica, Rebecca, Holly, and Beth are athletic young women interested in strenuous sports such as white water rafting. They meet in an isolated cabin in the Appalachian Mountains, USA (actually Scotland), for a little sorority-like pyjama party to kick-off their next undertaking: exploring a cave. The remainder of the film takes place inside the dark, narrow cave, where the girls find cave markings on the wall and an old miner’s hat. They squeeze into small openings, lose their lights, fall down crevices, and scream and cry a lot. This builds up to the final confrontation with the Creepy Crawlers who remind me of Gollum, that bald, naked, evil figure who led Frodo and Sam to Mount Doom in The Lord of the Rings. Here, however, there are several Gollum-look-alikes and all of them are deadly. This danger causes more confusion, screaming, attempts to escape up a ladder of bones and so on as death takes its toll.

The claustrophobia (which sensitive people might physically experience while viewing this film) is already evident in the opening credits, which you can read only bit by bit as if reading through a knothole in a fence. The girls make acting look like hard work in The Descent, although you never know if they really are emerging from muddy water, or pretending to do so in a set surrounded by green screens for post-production digital tweaking. They are sometimes difficult to tell apart, especially towards the end when they all have lank hair, muddy faces, and hysterical, dull, hopeless expressions in their eyes after they realize that they are trapped. They scramble over each other like rats in a small cage. Director/writer Neil Marshall thinks viewers might ponder some deep symbolism in the ending. Was Sarah the real enemy? Was someone taking revenge or even crazy? Was it all a dream? Did we fall asleep from boredom? Will it make a good basis for the next Scary Movie parody? One star for undifferentiating horror film freaks. (Becky Tan)

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