Spoiling The Descent

descent_1_198.jpgLike horror movies? Great. Interested in seeing The Descent, that creepy-sounding caving thriller about a group of women who get more than they bargained for on an underground expedition? Super. It’s really scary. Just … do yourself a favor, and if you’ve managed to avoid seeing trailers or TV spots to date, continue to avoid them until you’ve seen the movie. The trailer, the TV commercials, even the stupid little MTV promos include key snippets from the film that made me really glad I watched it (via an imported DVD) while I was still in a pristine, unspoiled state. (Well, close to pristine — whoever laid out the program book for this year’s Sundance Film Festival chose to illustrate the film’s very circumspect blurb with an out-and-out spoiler that I spent the next five months more or less successfully blocking out of my mind.)

Anyway, it made me jump in my chair. Twice. If you’re me, that’s a very big deal. I’d compare the jolts favorably to those in The Evil Dead, if that gives you any idea. (How old-school am I?)

The other thing about The Descent is that U.S. distributor Lion’s Gate has decided that the ending needs a, erm, minor tweak.


descent_2_198.jpgIf you’ve seen the film, you can probably imagine what the change is — as near as I can tell from following the Mobius discussion (not having actually seen the U.S. version), Lion’s Gate has decided to end the film just a couple of minutes early, cutting away from Sarah’s dream before she realizes it’s a dream. I think this is actually kind of interesting on a meta level — are there other films that send their audiences to the exits in the middle of a dream? Does it matter whether it’s a dream or not if you experience it richly, and if you never wake up from it? But at the same time it kind of blows because there are signals within the dream itself (I’m thinking specifically of the uniquely stylized, brightly lit “stairway to heaven” slope toward the light that Sarah scrambles up) that would lead a careful viewer to conclude that he’s inside a dream sequence, which could be very unsatisfying. Oh, well. Nobody ever went broke by catering to the “careful viewers” when they made last-minute tweaks to a director’s vision. Really, it changes the tone of the film from “utterly despairing” to “a real downer,” and I suppose pictures suffer greater indignities all the time.

Hell, Lion’s Gate will likely commit a much greater crime against horror fans on October 27, with the release of Saw III.

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