Mapping The Descent

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cheryl@sfbg.com

What's worse than being trapped underground? How about being trapped underground with creepy cave dwellers — creepy, hungry cave dwellers? And maybe, just maybe, losing your mind at the same time? Believe the hype: British import The Descent is the scariest movie since The Blair Witch Project, thanks to a killer premise, flawless pacing and casting, and writer-director Neil Marshall's unconcealed love for the horror genre. Here we present a flowchart of The Descent's predecessors and influences.

THE SHINING Any Kubrick fan worth their Grady girls impersonation will recognize The Descent's visual — and thematic — nods to the classic. Let's just say that anytime a car is creeping along a mountain road and shot from above, whatever's at the end of that road can't be good.

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DELIVERANCE The greatest of all outdoor-adventure-gone-awry films is duly honored here, right down to one character's Burt Reynolds–<style wet suit. However, The Descent focuses on female friendships, not male bonding — and the unfriendly natives ain't playing no banjos.

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ALIEN Two miles underground, as in space, no one can hear you scream — except monsters and your fellow explorers, who may or may not have your back, no matter what you thought at the beginning of the journey.

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DOG SOLDIERS Marshall's 2002 chiller is also about a group of people caught off guard by unfriendly freaks of nature: army blokes who encounter a pack of werewolves deep in the Scottish woods.

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THE CAVE This 2005 also-ran is included here only because it's a vastly inferior, PG-13 version of the same basic story: spelunkers on a downward spiral. Despite its smaller budget and unknown British cast, The Descent is far more memorable, not to mention way gorier.

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AND THE REST Unless you're too terrified, claustrophobic, or grossed out to pay close attention while you're watching, keep your peepers peeled for homages to Apocalypse Now, Carrie, The Thing, Night of the Living Dead, the Lord of the Rings films, and Nosferatu.<\!s><z5><h110>SFBG<h$><z$>

THE DESCENT

(Neil Marshall, England, 2005)

April 29, 11:30 p.m., Kabuki

May 1, 4 p.m., Kabuki

 

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