Monday, July 31, 2006

Musing on The Descent...

I wasn’t entirely surprised that American distributor Lion’s Gate has altered the bleak original ending of the British horror film The Descent for it’s theatrical release here (starting Friday). I’ve seen the film, and frankly while I’m pretty much a purist, I don’t believe their edits will really alter the tone of the film much. I think I know what they’re going to do, and if so, it lowers the Bleak-o-meter by a pretty small percentage.

However, I do find it weird given the television ad campaign. The TV commercials are doing everything they can to suggest that The Descent is in the torture porn tradition of Saw and Hostel, two films heavily named in the ads.

My initial problem with this is that I’ve seen The Descent (via a PAL DVD Joe Robin of Opposable Thumbs had procured), and it’s not a gore film. It has gore, but anyway going in expecting fountains of grue is likely to be disappointed, I think. Admittedly, maybe the gore that is there comes across more vividly on the big screen. Even so, I’m a bit of a wuss, and while I can’t imagine sitting through Saw or Hostel (partly for pure nastiness, if nothing else), I had little problem with The Descent. Well, actually, one scene came close to really freaking me out, but it didn’t even have any violence in it, much less dismembered limbs or whatever.

Still, if you’re trying to attract the sort of crowd that went to see Saw and Hostel, why would you bother to edit the film to make it even marginally less disturbing? My only guess is that they realized that the film was so intense that it they believe it will satisfy the hardcore gore crowd, while being a good enough film to please people like me, who aren’t really interested in gore for gore’s sake. In this particular case, they may even be correct. Even so, I find the campaign misguided, and seldom do you really maximize box office receipts by misrepresenting the film via its ad campaign.

In any case, anyone even remotely interested in horror films should go check this out, as indicated by the movie’s astounding 89% rating on Rotten


At 10:22 AM, Blogger Big Al said...

Were 'saw' and, especially 'hostel' big enough hits to justify thier inclusion in the ad campaign for 'descent'? and from what youve said using Hostel is akin to marketing Sleepless in seattle by saying its from the makers of 'Emmanuelle'(sp)

At 11:54 AM, Blogger Ken Begg said...

Hostel was hugely successful, the Saw movies even more so:

Production Budget $4.8m
Box Office $80m worldwide

Production budget $1.2m
Box Office $102m worldwide

Saw 2:
Production Budget $4m
Box Office $144m worldwide

That's just the theatrical take. I'm sure home video etc., brought in tens of millions more.

The Descent is in fact intense and often dark in tone, but unless memory fails me, it's just not as gory or nasty as I've been informed those two films are.

If The Descent does half as well as those films, though, it will be very profitable indeed.

At 12:03 PM, Anonymous Tork_110 said...

I'm kind of disturbed by the success of these films, but I am curious about how increasingly lame and/or unlikely the death traps will get as the Saw sequels go on.

At 12:56 PM, Blogger Ken Begg said...

I have to admit, I don't generally judge folks for liking different entertainment genres than I do, but we're not talking, like, country music here. I'm not doing to pretend that this is somewhat hypocritical from someone who's always loved horror movies, but the success of these torture flicks really kind sort of turn me off.

At 2:27 PM, Blogger Henry Brennan said...

I was never all that impressed with "Saw" (haven't seen "Hostel"). Although I have been known to like a bleak film or two, there has to be something more than just violence. A good example, for me, would be "Seven". I liked that film a lot and you can't get much bleaker (unless you count "Requiem for a Dream" which I also happened to like).

At 6:14 PM, Anonymous Eric45 said...

The Add campign for the Descent also ruin one of the best shock scenes in the movie (One that was built up for almost a hour.) as well as reducing the enjoyment of figuring out the situation as you watch. The original UK trailers (Very similar in style to Alien) were much better IMHO.

At 10:03 AM, Blogger Big Al said...

Eric45 Makes a good point, that I'm sure has commented on before, in that I find myself more and more often having to turn away from trailers and TV spots that just ruin movies. Idiotic.

At 10:48 AM, Blogger Ken Begg said...

Yeah, I literally don't watch them anymore. That's not enough, though. They boom the sound so hugely these days that you have to block your ears and hum, too, which looks silly, but otherwise you still learn more than you want.

The fact is, though, that most audiences respond to that sort of thing. For every one guy (like myself) who complains that the Sixth Sense trailer blew what was supposed to be a huge plot twist, a hundred guys go, "But that's what made me want to see the movie." So whaddya going do?

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