Monday, July 11, 2005

The Very Decent Horror Film

People have been heralding the return of horror movies to the mainstream for years. You had the likes of The Blair Witch Project, last year's Dawn of the Dead reworking, and the odd quirky little one like Dog Soldiers. But, you know, I think it's bullshit. I think the studios have wanted horror to come screaming and roaring back into the multiplexes because it's capable of hooking the biggest market - teens. And it's probably been doing OK at that, with things like Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, The Haunting remake, The Ring remake, The Remake remake... etc. But you can see where I'm going with this, right? The bucks might be rolling in (to some degree), but the product is not exactly going to be remembered fondly.

Some of it will, of course. Far as Blair Witch goes, I'm in the "impressed" camp. A breathtaking piece of film (or video), all the more incredible considering the production limitations. Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead last year was just full-on. He seemed to be giving us a new type of horror film, and I'm not sure how he did it. Whatever... in that cinema, with those zombies up there running around chasing everyone, I did serious damage to the arm of my multiplex seat (and my brother actually shit his pants). And there was Neil Marshall's Dog Soldiers, which was sort of like an old 80's-style horror - full-on gore, siege, and jokes aplenty. But the rebirth of horror cinema? As I said back there: bullshit.

Until last night, when I went to see The Descent - Neil Marshall's new one.

Suddenly it's not quite so bullshit anymore.

Quite sensibly, my brother thought better of coming to see this one. And boy, was he ever right. Shit his pants? He would have shit his whole digestive system at this one. (Nice image, huh? You ought to see the movie.) Dog Soldiers might have made good use of humour, but there ain't a joke in sight here. Marshall has the confidence to make a proper horror film - one that horrifies. And for that I applaud him. For too long, horror films have been post-modern and knowing, directors only feeling justified within the genre if they can cock a snook at it, just to say "hey, I'm dabbling". Fuck that. I wanted to see real horror, and here I got it.

You know what? I can't be arsed to tell you what it's about. Go look it up here. (I'd make a great movie critic, eh?)

One bit I must tell you about: all the characters are female. This is a female buddy movie, a bunch of crazy danger loving birds going off into the great outdoors, the whole expedition centred around helping out one of their number who has gone through great loss. I found it interesting that a male director should choose to do it this way. But hell, does it work. I'm not sure if it works because it's all women, or in spite of it. And we're not talking a bunch of flappy victims here (when was the last horror movie when the women were just flappy victims?) It's about the quiet, slow-burning tensions that go on for years between women, without ever getting resolved. It's about helping out your friends. It's about finding new uses for mountaineering axes.

That's enough of an outline for you. Just go and see it. Experience cinematic terror in all its glory. (And I can't urge you enough - watch it in the CINEMA. This kind of stuff relies so much on atmosphere.) But just do your fellow viewers a favour, OK? Try not to shit your pants.

(Apologies to brother Hugh, who didn't shit his pants really.)
(He just pissed himself.)


Jenny D said...

The camera work in The Blair Witch Project gave me such bad motion-sickness that I had to close my eyes for almost half of the movie so that I wouldn't actually throw up!

Charlie Williams said...

But Jenny, did you watch it at the cinema? I think it's a great work of video, and should be seen on the small screen. I can imagine how you'd feel sick if that shakiness took up such a large visual area.

Jenny D said...

Yes, it was at the cinema--NOT a good idea! It was a long time ago--not long after it came out--and it was one of those super-hot 95-degree-type summer days when you mainly go to see a movie for the air-conditioning; I really can't remember the last time I felt so sick!

Steve Kane said...

I've heard nothing but good things about The Descent. Sounds like a proper horror film and not the kiddie friendly, postmodern ironic gore-light films we've been getting recently. Just what is the point of a PG-13/15 rated horror movie?

... unless it is a ghost story. Granted, ghost stories don't need gore. They rely on suspense and psychological unease. But Asian film-makers have that market covered - they are the masters of that genre at the moment - which is probably why Hollywood is hellbent on remaking every last one of them (but not as well).