Thursday, September 11, 2008

neil marshall

If you're looking to add some tripe to your film diet, let me suggest a couple Neil Marshall movies. Aili and I have extracted some serious enjoyment out of his latest projects: The Descent (2005) and Doomsday (2008).

The Descent is a genuinely frightening horror movie that received critical acclaim upon its initial release in Great Britain and later release in the States. A group of 5 outdoorsy women go spelunking in an uncharted cave in the Appalachians. The first half hour of the movie builds the suspense quite effectively, and Marshall even takes some time to develop his main characters before throwing them into hell. At first, The Descent seems like it's going to be a psychological horror story, as the women go deeper into the cave, get cut off from the outside world, and begin to fight and suspect one another. That all the characters are female, and not treated like idiots or cheesecake, is both refreshing and effective. There are some absolutely horrific claustrophobia-inducing scenes, and all it takes is the right camera angle and appropriate lighting.

Of course, the story doesn't end there. The women begin to discover signs of predatory life and come to realize that they aren't alone in the dark. The nature of this mysterious troglodyte is a little disappointing; think, Gollum, without the paralyzing insecurity. The climax is very dark, thankfully, although for American audiences it was toned down a bit and made a little more vague. The "director's cut" DVD includes the original ending that Marshall feels is most appropriate for his story. Recommended.

You may have seen ads for Doomsday, as they seem to be ubiquitous on Redboxes, etc. I was particularly looking forward to this one, as it received satisfyingly terrible reviews and concerns a dismal, post- apocayptic future. The setting is Great Britain, and a lethal virus (the "Reaper" virus - pretty clever, huh?) has wiped out a significant chunk of the Scottish population. The British government sets up a perimeter defense to quarantine the entire country - they build a modernized Hadrian's wall and patrol the coasts.

Time passes. The government is corrupt. A naked blonde chick in a bathtub shoots a shotgun. The Reaper virus eventually infiltrates London and all hell breaks loose. A hero is chosen, Eden Sinclair (played by Rhona Mitra), to go beyond the wall, enter the hot zone, and see if there's a cure. Rumor has it, some people survived.

If you're thinking this is a mish-mash of a lot of films you've already seen, you're right. The wall and chaos within the quarantine zone is straight out of Escape from New York. Hell, Sinclair even has an eye-patch just like Plissken (although this time, she uses a cybernetic, removable eye to her advantage). The crazed behavior of Reaper virus victims recalls zombie movies galore, but especially 28 Days Later. Once Sinclair gets to the hotzone, she and her team discover an entire "civilization" of tatooed punk-rock cannibals, that may as well have timewarped from the set of Mad Max. Up to this point, it's all pretty ho-hum and not-interesting silly - but then there's this crazy scene with a warlord, Sol, dancing to the Fine Young Cannibals song, Good Thing. It's seriously bizarre and definitely gives Doomsday some potential for future, B-movie cult status.

And then things get even weirder. Sinclair escapes from Sol into the mountains and is eventually captured by another warlord, Kane (played by Malcolm McDowell). His minions dress up like medieval knights. It's deliberately anachronistic and doesn't make any sense at all (although there is a nice shot of a biohazard stained-glass window). Apparently, one of Marshall's guiding visions for this film was a standoff between a futuristic soldier and medieval warrior. Marshall was heavily influenced by Excalibur (a damn good film, I'll admit), and wanted to incorporate some of its elements into his whimsical potpourri.

The final 30 minutes of the film devolve into a tedious series of improbable events, including a Road Warrior-wannabe car chase, and culminating in successful acquisition of "the cure." The ending of the movie seems to set up not a sequel, but rather some sort of half-baked television series on the sci-fi channel (e.g., Stargate SG-1). Throughout most of this film, I kept wanting to hit "R" to reload Sinclair's automatic, which also makes me think they might try for some crappy video game spin-off as well. If you want to watch a blatant homage to every awesome 80's action sci-fi thriller made, Doomsday is your bag.

(= crazy delicious?)

1 comment:

  1. i think "28 days later" is amazing. in general, i enjoy watching post-apolcalyptic movies, regardless of how trite and derivative they are. just something about the distant-future that's interesting. nice blogsite. bloghopped from sandra's little thoughts.