Ryan Chartrand

“The Descent” should have never come to America (at least not in its “tweaked” form). If anything, it’s Lionsgate Films’ way of describing how well they did on their past year’s report card; a depressing descent into following the standard horror formula and forgetting to get creative.

Scottish women are insane, according to writer/director of “The Descent,” Neil Marshall. Apparently in Scotland, when a woman loses her husband and child, it’s only natural that you get the girls together and go down into a creepy cave in the middle of nowhere, hoping all your problems will be solved. So is the case in “The Descent,” the latest horror flick from Lionsgate, which stars six attractive women who are just asking to be thrown into a hellish pit of blood, bones and an excessive amount of slime. The women supposedly didn’t expect to find an entire colony of rabid, goblin-like creatures from “Lord of the Rings” waiting to tear them apart within the deepest parts of the caves.

It’s hard to tell where the problems begin when it comes to “The Decent” (yes, satirical misspelling was intended). The film starts with so much style and originality, making even river rafting seem awkward and possibly frightening. The next thing you know, a guy ends up with a pole through his head and a girl is dead in the back seat of a car (with style, I might add). That’s all there is to work with for character development, however. An awkward 15 minutes of women bantering on about nothing followed by 40 minutes of dull, predictable cave exploration makes way for the so-called horror. That leaves a few minutes for some vicious and unrealistic fights between the women and the Peter Jackson goblin clones.

Unlike last year’s cave-horror, “The Cave,” Marshall’s ladies know how to fight “Tomb Raider”-style. The creatures are a bit frightening at first, but the camera shows so much of them that they practically join the cast in the end and don’t seem frightening at all (don’t forget the cast only consists of eight characters, followed by the ten actors who play the creatures). There’s no diversity in the Gollum-wannabes, aside from one female creature (oooh hair!), which dies as quickly as the others. The supposed creative edge to it all is that the beasts are blind. Unfortunately the creative edge is a double-sided sword that ends up piercing the film’s integrity. The fear factor is simply not there when all of the horror scenes are simply women beating up on blind guys who are just protecting their home. It makes you wonder if “The Descent” is actually a tragedy and the creatures are the real heroes.

The lack of creativity in the direction and the underused advantage of lighting to scare the hell out of the audience show how Marshall is still learning (or he just needed a lot more money). Marshall’s attempts at creativity are nice, but nothing truly innovative.

Thankfully, the one redeeming quality is, believe it or not, the path the underlying story takes, despite the fact that it was poorly developed and overacted. While four of the six characters have no background whatsoever, the woman who lost her husband and child eventually finds out that her friend, who planned this great adventure, slept with her husband (that’s not a spoiler). The relationship between these close-knit women becomes fun to watch towards the end when all hell breaks loose and the script tosses out anything predictable. Although I never expected to find a real story within this British import, I am pleased to say I walked away with a memorable plot over a few cheap thrills. If only the acting hadn’t been so hideous and annoying, it might be even more memorable. Beware of the ear-deafening and idiotic line, “Is there anybody down here?” More importantly, “Is there anybody still watching?”

Lionsgate has one last chance to revitalize their 2006 horror lineup with “Saw III,” but if it’s anything like “The Descent,” we might as well protest for the return of “Alien” to theaters.

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