Monday, April 23, 2012

Bio-Art/ Let's Go Spelunking: The Descent.

In a move expected by hopefully no one, the last week before finals will be a Theme Week! Thisweek's theme will be subterranean life. Although this may sound cheesy, life underground can be just as terrifying as life in the deepsea abyss...only it's on land, so one wrong evolutionary move and we may well have a monster on our hands with easy access to meat. This threat has not gone unnoticed by filmmakers.

The Descent is a British 2005 horror film about a group of ladies who go on a spelunking trip. Unfortunately, they wander into the wrong cave and come face to face with a number of problems - the least of which is that they do not have a map. Their equipment starts to malfunction as they wander deeper into the caves, one of their party breaks a leg, and they find hundred-year-old equipment. Oh, and they meet these guys:

Meet the crawlers, the monsters of The Descent. They appear at roughly 50 minutes into the movie, but their presence is preceded by a series of clicks and occasional flashes of humanoid figures in the caves. These are not aliens - they're cavemen who never really left the caves and evolved over millennia. As per the director Neil Marshall: "I didn't want to make them aliens because humans are the scariest things." So true.

Right off the bat (ha ha), it is easy to tell that a ton of effort went into making these things not only creepy, but also well-adapted to their environment. Like many cave creatures, they have pale skin and are completely blind. They hunt entirely by sound (as confirmed both by their clicks and a rather annoying alarm clock), just like microbats. Although hard to catch, I'm pretty sure their limbs are not only adapted to scale walls, but also slightly longer than those of an average human. Basically, the women were doomed as soon as they wandered into the wrong cave...but they put up one helluva fight until the end. (No, it does not end well - the 'happy' American ending was a hallucination in the original British version.)

Besides making them perfect cave hominids in terms of adaptations, the directors were careful to show that these creatures had families very much like humans do. Female and child crawlers can be seen in the film as well. Unlike Clover, who was meant to illicit sympathy on some level but never really made it, The Descent's crawlers touch a human nerve. Even with the fear factor going, once one sees that these things have lives of sorts, one can't help but wonder who the real monsters are. There are a few jarring scenes that make the parallel between humans and crawlers particularly close - for example, when one of the women stabs a crawler to death, then immediately goes nuts on a fellow party member. A natural reaction, but ouch. (I'll snap one tomorrow, K?) 

The Descent is definitely one of the better horror flicks I've seen in my lifetime. A lot of thought went into the monsters, the characters, and the setting - my summary is extremely condensed. I'll be rewatching it at least once because I likely missed something (And owe you all a cap.) . Still deserves the relatively good ratings from online critics like Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB, so give it a shot if spelunking horror is up your alley. Avoid the American knockoff, The Cave, like the plague.

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