The best horror film for 2006, hands down, The Descent simmers and boils with intense energy and tension and then explodes into a non stop, gory action ending that is best viewed though the unrated Director's Cut (as opposed to U.S. theatrical release which has a different ending). It was released around the same time as The Cave and totally kicks it's ass despite The Cave's bigger budget and marketing scheme.
The Descent follows the blueprint of all great horror films by sticking to the three tried and true methods of great horror film making:
1) Keeping the story and situation simple - a group of spelunkers are trapped in pitch black darkness after the cave they are exploring collapses behind them. And they are not alone. Mwahahahaha!
2) Understanding the limitations of your budget and the audience's threshold for suspending belief - there are monsters here, but they are well done and the crew manages to keep the "oh geez" factor to a low minimum.
Lastly, 3) a well written script with actors who act instead of flub their way through the storyline.
So yeah, I'll be the first to admit that monsters rarely do it for me. Generally, they appear to be made of rubber or, worse, terrible CGI effects. They usually fail to scare me and generally seem too unbelievable for me to take seriously in any way. Here, however, like in director Neil Marshall's previous film, 2002's Dog Soldiers, (or even 1979's Alien for that matter), the monsters are shown in quick glimpses or partially hidden in the shadows. They move fast and they are filmed in ways that make them appear very menacing, not to mention the terrible sound they make. And while they do start appearing more and more and become more visible as the film moves forward, by the time you start thinking "those guys look kinda kooky" you're already hooked in and having a blast.
This is partially because the monster guys don't even show up until about three quarters of the way through. They are the pay off to a slow, bubbling series of scenes that are really freaky - especially if you are claustrophobic...which if you are not, you might be after watching this. The real monster in this movie is the cave itself, a masterpiece of set design, lighting and cinematography. I'm telling you, the first half of this movie is way scary and does an excellent job of setting up the heavy and non-stop roller coaster ride of the second half.
The Descent is an excellent film, horror or not. The Director's Cut is much gorier than the US version and has a much more satisfying ending (if you like horror). There is not much missing here that a die-hard horror fan would want: gore, action, monsters, fear, great story, and a hell of a good time. Most excellent, mooooost excellent.
- Complaint Dept