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THE DESCENT

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Being trapped in an uncharted cave with six not-so-friendly extreme-sports chicks is already one of my worst nightmares. No need to add meat-eating humanoids, but writer-director Neil Marshall does. His women-only horror thriller effectively taps our claustrophobia, and Marshall gets off several crowd-pleasing scares. However, I found the nail-biting mood to be leavened by the eventual appearance of the creatures, who are more silly than scary-looking. Marshall also films the gal vs. freak conflicts in a distracting, cartoonish hyper-mode ill-suited to the unsettling air of dread and impending madness he'd built up. Nonetheless, this is better-than-average rework of a familiar set-up that also proves that alpha males are vastly overrated in horror flicks; women are just as foolish and just as kick-ass. The Descent was a cult hit in its native U.K., but a different ending was added for this American release. If you can't wait for the DVDF, think: bleaker. (AH)

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