The Descent (Neil Marshall). 99 minutes. Opens Friday (August 4). For venues and times, see Movies, page 91. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
The Descent is the third "caving expedition gone bad" movie of the last year. The others were the big-budget Hollywood CGI-fest The Cave and the low-budget Australian rip The Cavern (aka Within). Now comes this Scottish variant from Neil Marshall .
The Descent is almost a sexual reversal of Marshall's Dog Soldiers: a group of women into extreme sports head for an unexplored Appalachian cave only to find that their leader, Juno ( Natalie Mendoza ), is a bit of a megalomaniac. Oh, and what's down there in the dark? Bad things that you don't want to meet, even in the light.
This is the best of the cave horrors, because Marshall makes the very smart decision to use the darkness to cover his lack of budget. Producer Val Lewton made the same discovery back in the 1940s with Cat People.
Of course, subtle smarts in a horror film may be the sort of thing critics appreciate more than fans, who like to parse the special effects.
The Descent surfaced on the festival circuit last year and lost the last shot of the film before theatrical release. That small cut makes it a hair less bleak.