“Dog Soldiers” filmmaker Neil Marshall returns with another horror yarn concerning a spelunking adventure gone awry that sees a group of female friends being chased around a cold, dark cave by a bunch of flesh hungry monsters. Geez, like poking around in caves wasn’t creepy enough.
We spoke with Neil about his latest film.
What inspired the making of The Descent? ^ Following my first feature Dog Soldiers, I had a real burning desire to make a genuinely terrifying horror movie. To play it straight rather than for laughs. When asked what my favorite horror films are I always list films from the 70’s and early 80’s – “The Omen,” “The Shining,” “The Fog,” as well as “Deliverence,” one of my all time favorite films. What they all had in common and why they stick in the mind so strongly is that they played it straight. So I wanted to make something truly dark, not just visually but thematically and emotionally. I wanted to explore the more primal side of human nature, so I was looking for a primal horror environment. At the same time I had this idea for a caving adventure, and the more research I did into caving, the more I realised just how terrifying it is and so I decided to combine these two notions into one story.
Let’s be honest, you just wanted to be stuck in a cave with a bunch of women, right? ^ Well, the idea certainly had a degree of appeal. But it could also have turned out to be a living nightmare. Luckily, the cast was a joy to work with, so yeah, getting stuck in a cave with them every day for 6 weeks wasn’t exactly the worst job in the world!
Do you have a favorite monster movie? ^ It’s got to be either “Alien” or James Whale’s “Frankenstein.” That’s the first monster movie I ever saw and that’s the film I think inspired me to make a horror movie.
Can horror fanatics expect some major monstrosities in “The Descent”? ^ The true horror in “Descent” lies in the capacity of the girls to regress to their most primal instincts in order to survive. That combined with the physical horror that is waiting in the darkness for them is an indication of where they might end up if they regress too far. That’s assuming they manage to live that long! The ‘CRAWLERS’ themselves aren’t too far removed from humans, and that’s what makes them so horrific. They’re a savage, predatory bunch who you definitely don’t want to meet on a dark night!
What were some major nightmares in getting this film made? ^ For the most part making this film has been a pleasure from start to finish. The only real nightmare came from realising the cave itself, since we knew from very early into production that we couldn’t shoot this film in real caves. It’d be too expensive, too dangerous, too impractical, not to mention time consuming and we’d either have to find a cave that would fit the action in the script, or write the action based around the cave, so it was never going to work. Instead we had to build everything from scratch and make it look as real as possible, as claustrophobic, cold, wet and unpleasant as caves really are. Luckily, Simon Bowles, our production designer is a genius, and combined with the ‘pitch black’ filming style myself and DoP Sam McCurdy came up with, we managed to utilise every aspect of the sets, even using some sets again and again without them ever looking the same.
Is horror your true passion or are you going to switch it up and head into romantic comedies next? ^ Well, I can’t see myself heading into romantic comedy territory just yet, but I would like to try my hand at something other than horror next time out. I’m a huge fan of all kinds of movies and genres, so I want to make a sci-fi film, a war film, a historic adventure, all sorts. I would imagine that I would inadvertantly bring a darker edge to any such story; I think that’s in my blood. That said, I have no desire to leave horror forever, I enjoy scaring audiences way too much! I’ve got several other horror projects in the pipeline so I can return to the genre with a vengeance a couple of films down the line……fingers crossed!
How do you feel about the current state of horror movies? ^ As with all films, horror has evolved over the past few years. We’ve come a long way from “Scream” and it now seems like we’ve come full circle and ended up back making 70’s style horror films, loaded with blood and gore and going straight for the throat. So I’m very happy with the current state of horror movies.