November 11, 2005


Some thoughts on horror flicks. p.s.: Star Wars Transformers.

The Descent is the newest flick by the fellow responsible for Dog Soldiers, and overall pretty disappointing, mostly in light of considering that the writer-director was one and the same. On its lonesome it's a simply-okay horror flick. It could have been a lot better, though.

How best to explain? Okay, consider The Blair Witch Project, one of those runaway successful films that's popular to express disdain towards. For the purposes of this comparison, assume I really don't feel strongly either way--this is an assumption that has the benefit of being true. Anyway, one of the points it's difficult to debate is that the characters spent entirely too much time screeching at each other excitedly with hands fluttering about. In The Descent, the characters make the Blair Witch Mystery Gang look positively levelheaded, the kind of people you'd want to have with you in a crisis situation.

It's a simple enough story of a pack of giggling shrieking harpies on the world's least safety-conscious spelunking expedition ever. There's pathos in that one of the characters lost her family in the kind of head-on collision you have if neither you or the fellow in the other car don't actually look ahead of you for at least ten full seconds. This accident occurs after said pack of shrieking harpies just did some whitewater rafting, to establish they like to do extreme recreation. It's the sort of thing that could be considered tragic, if the cute kid had been on screen for more than an eyeblink prior; also if this wasn't the kind of film where a simple high-speed head-on collision is simply considered too subtle, and that what was really needed to spice it up was for it to launch projectiles to impale the driver's head. Trying to hang tragic on that kind of thing is like trying to establish sympathy for Wile E.'s ravine-bottom dust-puff. But, whatever, benefit of the doubt--tragic and sad.

So a year later, our extreme recreation girl power squad is going spelunking. It's sort of an attempt to get the band back together, via cave-diving. There is, of course, a cave-in, and then they get attacked by what are essentially morlocks--sightless, crawling-scuttling, albino, cannibalistic, etc. At one point, during one of their rare breaks from screeching at one another, one of the meat scenery pleads with another who might have been meant to be the smart one (in a one-eyed man in kingdom of the blind sort of situation, I imagine) to tell them what they've been fighting. The whole movie could have been redeemed if she'd snapped back, "They're fucking morlocks, you screeching illiterate slags!" No such luck.

It did feature one of the best cinematic implementations of a Call of Cthulhu in-joke, though. Dig it: with a prior rpg group, it was a running gag that the best thing to do in any CoC adventure when whatever boojum finally popped up to show itself was to instantly shoot the fellow next to you in the leg, so as to increase your own chances. It's a geeky twist on the old advice on how to outrun an angry bear, basically.

All in all, it would have crossed the line from mediocre to pretty good, if there had just been less of excitable characters shrieking at one another, because it was seriously at nails-down-chalkboard level for what was, on purely objectively measure, eight hours of the film's running length.

Postscript: Star Wars Transformers.

posted by Gar @ 6:18 PM
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