The Descent

Opens at Pacific Place and others, Fri., Aug. 4. Rated R. 99 minutes.

Can't wait for Snakes on a Plane? How about mutant albino cannibals in a cave? That's all you need to know about the second horror feature from English director Neil Marshall, whose 2002 cult hit, Dog Soldiers, amounted to werewolves versus paratroopers in the woods. He understands how the violation of space drives a horror movie—How did I get here? Get me out of this place!—and keeps the plot and motivation suitably economical. All the six British female spelunkers trapped in an Appalachian cavern need to do is survive, right? On the other hand, the blind humanoid freaks use clicking echo-location, like bats, to find their prey in the dark. And they seem capable of crawling on the ceiling (having evidently lost the ability to walk through thousands of years of genetic de-selection). But to even out the contest, our half-dozen adventure- hottie heroines come armed with toned biceps, chiseled lats, and even sharper ice-climbing tools—the better to pierce mushy white mutant skulls.

That one of these trapped cavers (Shauna Macdonald) is recovering from a family tragedy doesn't really matter that much. Her loss is horror's gain. Once she's decided to no longer be the victim, she gets all Sigourney Weaver on the mutants' albino asses. (They look like Gollum in outline, only without the CG refinement or trips to the gym; they do bite, but don't act.) As summer subterranean blood wallows go, The Descent has the advantage of not being a remake of some supposed '70s horror classic, not overextending its simple conceit, not biting off more than it can chew (sorry). As with Dog Soldiers, Marshall has a knack for wringing big scares out of small confined spaces. Though he can probably expect a lawsuit from the Appalachian chapter of the Mutant Albino Cannibal Antidefamation League any day now. BRIAN MILLER

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