Monday, March 02, 2009

One Woman Army

*please note this post contains major spoilers for The Descent, Kill Bill 2, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Yesterday, having barely survived a huge brunch and cold Sunday, we decided it would be fun to watch The Descent, a Scottish-made horror film that was released in 2005. I had heard from various sources that the film was indeed a film, and not just another horror flick, that it was "good," unbelievably. The basic premise: six female thrill-seeking friends go in search of a cave. What they find inside the cave, of course, is where the whole horror thing comes in.

What interests me about this film, aside from the impossible film editing and camerawork, is the exposition we're offered in the beginning of the picture. Sarah, Juno, and Beth are BFF, white-water rafting, as Sarah's husband and daughter stand watching. After the rafting, they climb out and there's a marked exchange between Sarah's husband and Juno. (i.e.: affair). On the way home, Sarah asks (and here be spoilers) her hubby if he's alright, because he "seems distant." As he turns to explain his behavior to her, they're struck by another car, and violently, both husband and child are killed.

Fast forward a year later. As Sarah and Juno are trapped inside the cave, battling evil and struggling to survive, the issues of the past rear their ugly heads. Is this a revenge story? Is Juno really evil? Was it an honest mistake? Should Sarah forgive and forget and should they work as a team to escape? What does this movie say about friendships between women? Can there really only be one woman standing in the end?

I couldn't help but think of Buffy and Faith as an earlier version of Sarah and Juno. Let's face it: Faith and Buffy are both the slayer, but there's only one real slayer. Buffy obviously takes precedence as she's the first. Each take a different path to destruction and they both end up (practically and literally) in the ground. Buffy and Sarah are the good girls: the blondes, and Juno and Faith the bad-ass brunettes. Hell, even the monsters the Scots come up against in the cave look eerily similar to the super vamps Buffy battles in her final season.

The weaponry is also similar: scythe-like. Here's Sarah in The Descent:

And here's Buffy with her King Arthur scythe.

And what's up with this whole underground, clawing out of the dark thing? Freudian analysis would say that it's a rebirth, a return to the womb, and that these women have escaped from being buried alive under extenuating circumstances: whether that be a husband's infidelity, a friend's betrayal, or, in Buffy's case, the end of the world. Here's a cheesy, but kind of awesome YouTube clip of Buffy's revivification and subsequent "clawing out of her own grave" bit.

And here's a still from The Descent.

And let's not forget Beatrice Kiddo's kick-ass buried alive scene from Kill Bill 2.

Ultimately, what these cultural candies seem to be telling us is that it's a dog-eat-dog world out there for us ladies. We can be the chosen one, your kid and your husband can die, hell, you can be a world-class assassin but at the end of the day, dammit, you just can't catch a break. Your boyfriend's a vampire, your husband's cheating on you with your best friend, and the father of your child shoots you in the head after you leave him so he can keep the baby.

But you know what? After all that, after all the blood, sweat, murder, and tears, there's still the undeniable satisfaction of revenge. And I think that's what makes these films and, in Buff's case, these enterprises so important for women. It doesn't always have to be about revenge, but if that's the fire under your engine to get the hell up out of the grave, well then: it works for me.


kat said...

I love, LOVE, The Descent. Although I have heard that the version released in the US is not the same as the one released in the UK, in which the ending is... well, different, in a way that would add an additional twist to this analysis. But I'll leave it at that, lest I spoil anyone's fun.

Snobber said...

It isn't the same!

I think I know what you're getting at here, and this is the mother / child twist? (more pertinent to Kill Bill), yes?