Et tu, ‘Cyber-Horror Elite’?

Posted by Peter Hall - December 21st 2008 @ 12:48 pm

You’ll recall that Brian at The Vault of Horror polled the LOTTD to aggregate a democratic Top 50 Horror Films of all time list.  While I wasn’t in harmony with the general consensus and placement (4 of my 10 made the cut), by no account was a single undeserving film in the top 10.  A few sites around the net took offense to the lack of criteria in the listing process, so The Vault set out to do another, dubbed the Modern Era, with a set standard: Top 10 since 1990.

Brian even branched out, polling beyond the LOTTD to include members of prominent horror outlets.  Talking with him before the results came in I had asked if he would mind me posting some predictions.  Sloth stepped in and that never happened, but my mental sticky note nailed the Top 3.

Correction:  Unfortunately, my mental sticky note nailed the Top 3.  I think you know where I’m going with this.

Of course THE DESCENT was number one.  I knew it would be, but that makes this no less painful.  I’ve railed time and time against the praise the movie has recieved; I need not repeat my bludgeoning of its mediocrity an Nth time.  All I ask is for a little perspective, folks.

Is THE DESCENT really a better movie than THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, a movie that altered the landscape of filmmaking like an obsidian obelisk?  BLAIR WITCH put Indie horror back on the map.  It proved that not only was it a viable enterprise, but that it has the power to be lucrative beyond the imagining of it.  Money aside, BLAIR WITCH is carved into a popular conscious that spans generations.  I’d argue the only horror film since 1990 that may rival the genre specific iconography of BLAIR WITCH is SCREAM.  Even then, SCREAM is iconic only to Western markets.  BLAIR WITCH was a global success seen literally by billions of people.  Its fear engine shaped minds the world over.  THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT is a victim of the sincerest form of flattery on a planetary scale.

Please, please, please explain to me how THE DESCENT is in any quantifiable way a more accomplished film than that.

Does Anthony Hopkins in THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS really play second fiddle to anyone in THE DESCENT?  That is a joke to me that does not compute.  I will wager a kidney that each and every person reading these words right now has quoted THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS.  I’d be hard pressed to learn that half the people reading these words right now can recall a single spoken sentence from THE DESCENT.  I mean, fuck, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS is timeless.  Name one thing that pays tribute to THE DESCENT.  Another ten years won’t yield an answer.

Is THE DESCENT a more intelligent dissection of its niche genre than SCREAM?   Does its climax burn with emotion the same way THE MIST does?  Are its effects as innovative as DEAD ALIVE?  Is it a more visceral experience than [REC]?  More disturbing than SESSION 9?  More resourceful than DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE?  Absolutely not.  The damned title credits in it use lens flares, for crying out loud!

I know that I am probably THE DESCENT’s harshest critic.  I’ve forced myself to watch it more times than most of its fans have in a hope that I’ll discover the illusive, magical quality it possess.  It isn’t there, people.  It just isn’t.  It’s not a bad movie, but it’s not number one.  Let it into the Top 10 of the Modern Era, okay.  By all means it can have the number 9 spot, which INSIDE is not deserving of.  Just not number one.

Just not number one.

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  1. BC
    December 21st, 2008 | 1:49 pm | #1

    I was surprised to see it at #1 too, but then I recalled the general flaw in this sort of “assigning points” system.

    To keep things simple to make an example, let’s say there were 20 of us polled. And let’s say 10 people put The Mist as #1, and the other 10 put Silence of the Lambs, But the people that chose Mist maybe didn’t choose Silence at all, and vice versa. However, all 10 folks had Descent in their top 5, if not number 1. Once the math comes in, Descent has the most points and thus takes the number one slot. It’s also how random entries like H20 get in there, all it takes is one or two people putting it high on their list even though no one else had it on theirs at all.

    But it’s all moot… the list is worthless due to the omission of Dr. Giggles. :)

  2. BC
    December 21st, 2008 | 1:50 pm | #2

    Oops, it should say “All 20 folks had Descent in their top 5″, not 10.

  3. CRwM
    December 22nd, 2008 | 6:56 pm | #3

    “One bat, ha ha ha. Two bats, ha ha ha. Fifty bats . . .”

    That’s the line I remember from The Descent.

    Then I think somebody tells her to fuck off, but I maybe misremembering that because every fifth line is somebody telling somebody to fuck off.

    Somebody else is going to have to do the hard pressing of you though. I don’t swing like that. Not that it’s wrong if that’s your thing. It just isn’t how I get down.

  4. December 22nd, 2008 | 7:02 pm | #4

    Iunno…I’m prettttty charming….

  5. Matt J.
    December 23rd, 2008 | 11:14 pm | #5

    I’ve never put much weight in any of these lists. AFI has come close, and even they of a couple that don’t make much sense.
    I enjoyed Descent…it was fun to watch. But I agree it does’nt belong at number one…i’m not sure I would give a top ten spot.

    These “best of” lists are usually shit…i keep a best of list of my own, thats the only one that matters to me.

  6. Dale
    March 6th, 2009 | 11:59 am | #6

    Yeah, CRwM, Beth says “Holly. Fuck off,”
    and then there’s this.
    Sam: Which way?
    Juno: There’s only one way out of this chamber and that’s down the pipe.

    Uh, I can remember most of the script from The Descent. And how the actresses delivered the dialogue, and what most of the shots looked like… Yes, I’m a freak.

    Even if Anthony Hopkins is incredibly creepy, I wouldn’t say TSotL is a horror movie, anyway. It’s a crime thriller, IMO. I don’t know if that maybe damaged it’s ranking, that a few people thought the same. I suspect [REC] would be higher if it had been out longer and more people had seen it.

    However, I hated the ending to The Mist. It was pretty good before that, but that just came out of nowhere and the characters had a million other options, they just suddenly became extremely stupid. It would make more sense if their mental state had taken more of a toll throughout the film, but up until that moment they’d had a very strong desire for survival. And then with the army, it just became too much. It was too much of a shaggy dog story, crammed into too short a timespan. It got SO tragic it was almost parodying itself.

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