The Descent 

The trailers for The Descent trumpet its association with Saw and Hostel (all three films are distributed by Lionsgate), and it's easy to understand why. Those movies were big box-office successes, and this horror flick with a no-name cast (the only face I recognized was that of Nora-Jane Noone, who starred in The Magdalene Sisters) and simple premise (women lost in a cave) needs all the help it can get to draw an audience.

But I can't help thinking the ad campaign does a disservice to the film's potential audience. Gore hounds might be disappointed by a movie less graphic (some might say less gratuitous) than expected. And those who are turned off by the full-scale, exploitation-movie bloodletting of Saw and Hostel might avoid the more restrained The Descent.

This film, about six adventurous friends who regroup one year after a terrible accident to bond and heal during a spelunking trip, is reminiscent at times of lots of other great horror movies: Deliverance, The Blair Witch Project, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Those are classics. The Descent is merely a well-above-average genre movie, but it's honest and effective enough to honor the comparisons.

After a credit-sequence shocker throws the life of young mother Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) into a tailspin, the film flashes forward a year, where Sarah's extreme-sports-ish friends have set up a cave-exploring trip in the Appalachians. A rock slide traps the group inside the cave system, where, turns out, these women aren't alone.

The Descent is ripe with foreshadowing and plenty of standard horror shock tactics using darkness, sound, and distraction, and if you're even the slightest claustrophobic, you'll find The Descent plenty scary even before the true horror elements are introduced.

Opens Friday, August 4th, multiple locations

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