The Descent of Horror
|by Roberto Rivera|
According to USA Today, "no fewer than 39 fright films have been scheduled for the big screen" in 2007. For the previous three years, "the average was 20."
Studios like horror films because "in most cases, a fright flick costs less than $30 million and easily makes that back in theater and home video revenue." The problem is that what USA Today calls the "glut" of horror films threaten to -- puns definitely intended -- cannibalize each other by eating into each other's audience. The result is disappointing box-office numbers.
It might help if some of the movies were actually, you know, scary. This past weekend, I watched The Descent, which was written and directed by Neil Marshall. Why? At the risk of seeming completely shallow, here goes: the cover, which featured this picture, had long intrigued me, albeit in a bad way. More importantly, it was one of the few blu-ray discs available for rent at my Blockbuster. A good scare in high definition picture and sound, deal me in. Add the superlatives thrown around at IMDb and I figured it was worth a rent.
The Descent is about six women from the British Isles who go caving somewhere in the Appalachian mountains. (The license plates on the rental cars read "North Carolina.") As you can guess, something goes terribly wrong.
Wrong but not particularly scary. The Descent is a textbook example of what Roger Ebert calls "movies that go 'Boo!'" They don't frighten you so much as startle you. You don't feel a sense of menace while watching movies like "The Descent" -- you feel nervous. Eventually, even someone who is as easily startled as I am gets over the nervous feeling as we can predict with 97.3572 percent accuracy when something is going to pop out of the background. (Propeller-head A/V geek aside: one of the advantages of high definition, especially on a properly set up monitor, is that objects in dark areas become more distinct than they usually are in your local multiplex. IOW, I could see the "crawlies" coming.)