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August 12th, 2006


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06:30 pm - Live Each Day, but Die This One
So you know not to see Pulse unless, like zimshan, you want to mock it, right? But what if you're still looking for a good horror movie to see? Shouldn't you go see that one that everyone's talking about? That one about a bunch of chicks who go into a cave and get attacked by cave beasties? What was it called? The Dessert?

No, fool. The Descent. And, yes, you should see it instead. It's not only a better movie overall, but it's also scarier.

For about half the movie, you will be asking yourself, "I thought spectralbovine said this was a horror movie?" It is. Just wait. I tell you this in advance so you don't let impatience get in the way of appreciating the first half. I think the fact that it takes its sweet time getting to the actual horror part ends up making it scarier because it feels so real. Everything is grounded, including the characters. The character dynamics are important as well, and you really get the sense that all these women are good friends. Some are more fleshed out than others, but no one is a one-note caricature. And because they feel like real people, the psychological component of the movie works as well. Plus, the movie assumes the audience is smart enough to understand the psychological component and character dynamics, which is quite lovely. This is the sort of horror movie that makes you look at how real people react under extreme circumstances.

As I said, the movie doesn't deliver scares for a while, but once they start coming, they keep coming, and the tension never drops. The camera work puts you right in there with them, cramped up in dark, enclosed spaces, fighting for your life frantically. At times, the movements are so quick and the editing so fast that you can't exactly tell what's happening, but it works because, if you were in that situation, you wouldn't be able to tell exactly what's happening. You would just be trying to stay alive, grabbing at whatever was around for a weapon, keeping the cave beastie from ripping your throat out. And the tangibility of the beasties and the intelligently constructed air of mystery surrounding their existence makes them much scarier than the flickery ghosties in Pulse.

In addition, as zenkitty_714 points out in her excellent review, all the main characters are women. There is one male character of note in the entire movie, and he's not in the cave with them. The protagonists are all strong, adventurous women. A couple are total badasses. There's a power shot worthy of Joss, very similar to Buffy's in "Anne" and River's in Serenity. It's worth noting, isn't it, but it's also sad that it's worth noting, as Joss said in his Equality Now speech.

This is a quality horror movie, people. Well crafted in all the ways you expect from a regular movie. It's being hyped as one of the best horror movies in years, and, despite not having seen that many horror movies in recent years, I would probably agree. It's not your typical horror movie, in any case.

One final note: if you've heard about this movie at all, you've probably also heard that they changed the ending for the U.S. release to make it less "dark," but that doesn't mean it's a happy ending by any means. I agree with the director that it's a "happy" ending the way the ending of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is (and that movie does have a pretty fabulously creepy, chilling ending). The way I interpreted it, I really liked the ending.

So, go see The Descent. Especially if you're about to go into some caves.
Current Mood: impressedimpressed
Current Music: M.I.A. - Galang

(32 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")

Comments:


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From:warden96
Date:August 13th, 2006 01:36 am (UTC)
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For about half the movie, you will be asking yourself, "I thought [info]spectralbovine said this was a horror movie?" It is. Just wait. I tell you this in advance so you don't let impatience get in the way of appreciating the first half. I think the fact that it takes its sweet time getting to the actual horror part ends up making it scarier because it feels so real. Everything is grounded, including the characters. The character dynamics are important as well, and you really get the sense that all these women are good friends. Some are more fleshed out than others, but no one is a one-note caricature. And because they feel like real people, the psychological component of the movie works as well. Plus, the movie assumes the audience is smart enough to understand the psychological component and character dynamics, which is quite lovely. This is the sort of horror movie that makes you look at how real people react under extreme circumstances.

So it's somewhat similar to From Dusk Till Dawn then? The first hour is a like a suspenseful drama then the second part is horror?

Would you put this on the same level as Aliens with Sigourney Weaver kicking alien ass and whatnot?
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From:spectralbovine
Date:August 13th, 2006 01:39 am (UTC)
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So it's somewhat similar to From Dusk Till Dawn then? The first hour is a like a suspenseful drama then the second part is horror?
HA HA HA HA HA. That is exactly the movie I was thinking of while I was watching.

Would you put this on the same level as Aliens with Sigourney Weaver kicking alien ass and whatnot?
Well, the one they keep bringing up is Alien, but, yeah, I think they're similar with the badass lady in the enclosed space kicking ass and not even bothering to take names.
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From:rowanceleste
Date:August 13th, 2006 01:41 am (UTC)
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So what you're implying is that if I don't want to embarass myself in public by screaming 'FUCK!'while simultaneously cowering in my seat and tossing my popcorn in the air, I should go and see Pulse instead of The Descent? :)
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From:spectralbovine
Date:August 13th, 2006 01:48 am (UTC)
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Well, if you're easily scared, you might get embarrassed at Pulse too, since it's not that hard to make a BOO! moment. But Descent has actual terror, and you'll have more indie cred, so it's worth the embarrassment.
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From:dark_roast
Date:August 13th, 2006 01:52 am (UTC)
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I've been telling everybody how awesome The Descent is, and how much it deserves piles of money. Nobody would go with me on opening night, because my movie-snob friend bitched about how they gave the film a happy ending -- but then my friends were all running out to see Pulse the next weekend. Bastards.

I completely agree with your interpretation of the ending to The Descent, and in fact, I think the change makes things a lot darker. The original ending has a "mercy-killing" aspect, which would have been a relief, in some ways.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:August 13th, 2006 01:56 am (UTC)
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Exactly! I mean, this way, she has even more psychological trauma to deal with. I really like it, and I'm not even sure I would like the original ending as much because it feels too easy, you know? Not dark, but gratuitous.
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From:calendae
Date:August 13th, 2006 01:55 am (UTC)
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No offense, dude, but you explicitly telling me not to see Pulse, just makes me want to see it more.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:August 13th, 2006 01:56 am (UTC)
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Are you saying I have bad taste in movies? Or just that you're contrary?
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From:latropita
Date:August 13th, 2006 01:57 am (UTC)
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Damn, now I really want to see a movie I'm almost positive will make me cry. Curse you and your compelling reviews.
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From:karinalee
Date:August 13th, 2006 02:06 am (UTC)
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The Descent!! OMG. We spent half of the last part of the movie with our hands over our eyes. There were only 10 of us in the theater, so we were laughing and shrieking at all the scary parts. Excellent movie.

Have you seen the original last 10 minutes on youtube? They changed the ending for the US release. I thought the original made much more sense.

WARNING - SPOILER IN THE LINK
Here's the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xJgAj8HbVs
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:August 13th, 2006 02:25 am (UTC)
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I knew YouTube would come through!! Thanks for that. See my discussion with dark_roast above. I do like the way the original ending is presented, at least. But fake-outs can bug.
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From:zimshan
Date:August 13th, 2006 04:17 am (UTC)
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Bah humbug. Like a real good horror movie would ever play around here...
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From:electricmonk
Date:August 13th, 2006 07:31 am (UTC)
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Noooo. I have to change the channel when the previews for this come on. And I walked out of Saw after ten minutes. Ahhhhhh gross.
But, uh, I'm glad you liked it.
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From:alannaofdoom
Date:August 13th, 2006 02:48 pm (UTC)
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I've been hearing good things about this and am so surprised, because the early ad campaign was all, "From the studio that brought you Saw and Hostel," like, thanks, I'd like to know about this movie, not about movies you released months/years ago.

Anyway, I don't know if I'm gonna see it, because I have been not going to the movies much at all lately.

I do love the ripoff-of-Dali poster, though.
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From:sweetsuzysunset
Date:August 13th, 2006 08:22 pm (UTC)
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Is The Descent really, really gross? I want to see it, but my usual movie escort has gotten very squeamish as movie gore has gotten more realistic. He also claims that he won't see horror movies with me anymore, since I tend to scare the hell out of him by suddenly grabbing him during scary parts without intending to, but that's neither here nor there.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:August 13th, 2006 08:36 pm (UTC)
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It's not excessively gross for the sake of being gross, but there is a protruding bone at one point. And a shot of a nasty laceration. And blood spurting from pick-wounded beasties. But, usually, it's too dark to really see anything anyway.
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From:bspalek
Date:August 14th, 2006 02:23 am (UTC)
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Hee. When she did that pose I thought of river as well. Kind of kicked ass. I have always wanted to go cave exploring, but now I think I'll probably stick with the "toursit" caves. =)

What was the original ending? I liked the way it ended the way I interpreted it as well. All I agree it was a very well done movie.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:August 14th, 2006 02:29 am (UTC)
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Check my comments. The original ending is on YouTube, as I expected.

I've always loved the tourist caves. Now I'm afraid of those too.
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From:jenelope
Date:August 14th, 2006 02:36 pm (UTC)
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That movie inspired an odd little conversation between Blixie and me last weekend. She thought that the cave divers should have anticipated that something horrible would happen to them because they were lowering themselves a great distance into a dark friggin' cave! Then I revealed that I once harbored a momentary wish to be a spelunker because 1) caves are the cool kind of creepy; and 2) "spelunking" is a fun word to say. I also said that my interest in spelunking was lost forever when I discovered the other meaning of the word. I could never take it seriously again.
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From:maka2000
Date:August 14th, 2006 05:44 pm (UTC)
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**SPOILERS for those who haven't seen this movie**

But I have to discuss...

I saw the movie lastnight and I was scared out of my mind. I LOVED how the tension built and built and built until we FINALLY saw the thing all hunched over and white, eating something er other and that disgusting noise it makes - but just a brief flash, so then I was all nervous because I still wasn't sure if Sarah was full on nuts at that point and imagining it - but then later it's just suddenly standing behind one of the ladies, like leering at the one girl's back! My entire theatre screamed bloody hell and then cracked up. It was so excellent.

First of all, I already have issues with the idea of critters out there in the world that haven't yet been discovered by science. Like the idea freaks me out - when they discover a new weird fish or something that lives deep, deep down in the ocean - I get the wiggins. Oddities of nature creep me out so much! So I liked the idea of some cavemen people going to live in that cave yeeears ago, and then slowly evolving into those things. AH!

Closed spaces = AH! Being trapped = AH! Madness = AH! Squishy, chomping, eating noises = AH! All scary to me.

I really enjoyed this movie. I thought it was super scary. My pal next to me was jumping and screaming and huddled into a ball during the whole thing, then afterwards had the nerve to say it "Wasn't that scary." Bullpucky.

I liked both endings actually, Sarah's descent into madness was slowly coming on the whole flick, so it was in a way darker that she would just embrace the crazy and happily sit in the dark staring at her dead daughter - but I also liked the idea that she did live and will live with madness, haunted by what she did to Juno and everything that happened to her. I think both were pretty dark. The original was more hopeless - for sure though.

Do you think Juno vowed to find Sarah out of guilt alone? Or do you think she did have a sense of honor? I'm pretty torn, I tend to think guilt alone - but she fought like hell for Holly - so she certainly had it in her.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:August 14th, 2006 06:00 pm (UTC)
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then later it's just suddenly standing behind one of the ladies, like leering at the one girl's back! My entire theatre screamed bloody hell and then cracked up. It was so excellent.
Trivia: the director didn't tell any of the cast about that. Their screams are genuine.

So I liked the idea of some cavemen people going to live in that cave yeeears ago, and then slowly evolving into those things. AH!
Yeah, I liked that the Crawlers seemed remotely plausible. My favorite touch was the Conquistador's helmet. Like, how many people had been down here before and never returned?

The original was more hopeless - for sure though.
Yeah, I do like the way the original ended, technically. The way I heard it described at first was just that she was ambushed and killed, but the actual ending is far creepier than that. She's kind of doomed herself. But I also like the American ending of forcing her to live on with what she's been through.

Do you think Juno vowed to find Sarah out of guilt alone? Or do you think she did have a sense of honor? I'm pretty torn, I tend to think guilt alone - but she fought like hell for Holly - so she certainly had it in her.
Oh, she wouldn't leave without Sarah because of guilt. But Holly was totally her girlfriend, even though they didn't say it. If not, they were closer than the rest of them.

There was a very telling moment when one of them said that Juno's screaming would bring all the Crawlers down on her, and the other said, "As long as it's not me." You wonder how long that sort of resentment had been boiling inside that group. Yes, there's the obvious sense of personal survival, but there's also the sense of, "Oh, it's only Juno."

I was a little surprised that Beth truly blamed Juno for what she did because the way the scene was shot, it looked like an honest mistake. Juno's crime wasn't in killing her but in leaving her to die. What does that tell you about her sense of honor, huh?
[User Picture]
From:soleta_nf
Date:August 14th, 2006 11:32 pm (UTC)
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I don't like horror movies, but you're making me really want to go see this one.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:August 14th, 2006 11:37 pm (UTC)
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I'm evil that way.

And, hey, like I said, you've at least half a movie that would not be out of a place in a regular drama.

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