I only got to see one film in this year’s Philadelphia Film Festival, and luckily it was damn good. The film is a UK horror movie called The Descent—from Dog Soldiers director and scribe, Neil Marshall—and screened as part of the Danger After Dark showings.
On the surface it bears a similar direction to last year’s snore-fest The Cave, which also follows a group of explorers’ and their misfortunes underground, but it’s quite un-sporting to compare them much after that because The Descent outclasses it in every way possible (and made it to theaters before The Cave anyway). What follows is a beautifully dark and claustrophobic spin on a typical monster flick that will chill you straight through. The film is so successful because at its core, it’s so simple. There are no drawn out explanations or monologues; Marshall doesn’t serve up tripe and trusts the viewers to connect some pieces on their own. It also doesn’t hurt that the direction and low-light cinematography are absolutely gorgeous.
In the effects-laden and music-ramp-ups-to-a-scare that are typical of most horror films these days, it’s refreshing to often be caught off guard by The Descent, as many times the screams come entirely without warning. The end of the film didn’t find me at the edge of my seat because I was glued to the back of it, trying to get even a few inches further away from what I was seeing. Perhaps it was mild claustrophobia, or a fear of being trapped underground (a fear I guess I never really knew bothered me), but this movie got my heart racing. I haven’t squirmed and jumped from my seat due to a horror movie in a long time. Best of all, the whole theater was doing the same thing. It got us all… and it was simply terrifying.
I write this not so much as a review but more to urge you to see it (which is why I didn’t really write much else on what it’s about). The film is supposed to come to US theaters sometime in August, and was released on DVD in the UK last November. Plain and simple, The Descent is a monster movie done right, and definitely one of the best horror movies I’ve seen in a while. Highly recommended.