August 23, 2006

The Descent.

So is Neil Marshall's The Descent the best horror film (I've seen) since Sadako crawled out of a TV in 1998? It may very well be. Wonderfully simple in its setup (and narrative: six women in a cave, and they're not alone), The Descent is a masterpiece of unrelieved tension and claustrophobia. (The fact that the viewer is plunged in almost total darkness during three-quarters of the film helps.)

To people who don't usually watch horror films -- and unfortunately, I have a number of friends who simply bypass the genre altogether -- it's hard to push other people to view it. The other night I was having dinner with friends and I was babbling on and on about how great a film it was and that I had seen it twice and wanted to see it again, and that I highly recommend it, etc., etc.:

Gladys: I don't like horror movies. Is there something else I would get out of it?

me [too quickly]: Not really.

Gladys: Oh.

me [scrambling]: Well... there's a subtext of feminist empowerment in the film.

At this point Oscar jumps in with "You're working this table!" and the spell, if it was woven at all, was broken. (Oscar and I were the only guys.) But as fatuous as that may sound, the sight of strong women kicking ass -- with the unofficial leader, a Pinay, at that -- looked pretty good on screen.


If I were pressed to pick, these would be my top five favorite "horror" films in chronological order (how odd that three of them came out the same year):

- Robert Wise's The Haunting (1963)
- William Friedkin's The Exorcist (1973)
- Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now (1973)
- Robin Hardy's The Wicker Man (1973)
- Hideo Nakata's The Ring (1998)

(Runners-up, in no order: E. Elias Merhige's Begotten, George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead, Georges Franju's Eyes without a Face, Herk Harvey's Carnival of Souls, Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead, Peter Weir's Picnic at Hanging Rock, Tod Browning's Freaks, and Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby.)

Posted by the wily filipino at August 23, 2006 08:14 PM

Is the heroine's pilipina-ness banked on at all? To me she is like Keanu; just another ethnically ambiguous actress (Tia, Keanu, Dean, the Tillys) to maximize profit.

Posted by: brown on August 26, 2006 07:16 AM

ok, i'll try to see it on dvd when it comes out. but i really don't like horror films!

Posted by: Gladys on August 31, 2006 12:54 AM

I really need to see Picnic at Hanging Rock. Rosemary's Baby would top my list of horror movies.

Posted by: Dan Coffey on August 31, 2006 07:51 AM

Darren: she didn't seem particularly ethnically ambiguous to me -- looked straight-up Pinay to me (whatever that means). But no, the fact that she's not phenotypically white like the other women doesn't play a factor at all.

Dan: it's not technically a "horror" movie. But it's "haunted" for sure.

Posted by: the wily filipino on August 31, 2006 07:35 PM

The reason I stressed the ambiguous nature of her ethnicity was mainly because I was unaware that she was in fact Pinay! So again, one of these secret actresses/actors which happen to be (insert enthnicity here). Perhaps this has something to do with the whole mestiza/o phenomena.

Posted by: brown on August 31, 2006 10:26 PM

Have you seen The Changeling? That one's pretty scary... or maybe because I watched it when I was in my early teens...

Posted by: Jerome on September 2, 2006 02:54 AM
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