Let’s face it: the only reason anyone is interested in Descent at all is that it’s being billed as Rosario Dawson’s rape movie. For some reason the public gets all giddy whenever the semi-famous act out being brutalized on screen. The people who are all excited to see Rosario’s rape movie are also probably the same people who’ve been supporting the whole torture-porn thing. You know who you are, a few weekends ago you were stupid enough to show up for Captivity. But Descent isn’t another riff on the whole torture-porn genre, it’s not even that smart.
Descent is a cruel, mindless movie about a woman who gets raped, and then uses the fact of her rape as a means to internally justify exploring a series of bizarre, hidden fetishes. At least I think that’s what’s happening. The film is almost impossible to follow and it’s a mish mash of ill-fitting parts which mean even less than they appear to.
Rosario Dawson plays Maya, a 19-year-old college coed whom she is at least 5 years too old to convincingly play. Dawson has a wise, confident look and the task of portraying some doe-eyed, sassy, innocent is completely beyond her. It’s like watching your mom dress up in a school girl outfit. The clothes don’t make the woman, in this case the years on her face do. I’m not saying Rosario looks old, I’m just saying she’s too experienced looking to be some dumb kid.
After some meandering around with Maya, the movie carefully sets up a scenario in which she gets raped. Except as rape scenes go, it’s not much of one. Actually, I had kind of a hard time figuring out that’s what was going on. It’s hard to be sympathetic towards a rape victim when you can’t even tell if that’s what happened to her, so later when she inexplicably uses this as an excuse to get into drugs and weird control based sex it doesn’t really make sense. Director Talia Lugacy does a lousy job of getting across just how traumatic rape is, and frankly that’s not just bad filmmaking it’s dangerous social policy for a movie that seems to be wrapping itself in the cloak of girl power.
See, eventually Maya turns the tables. This is probably a spoiler, so I suggest you stop reading if you actually want to see this piece of trash. She does it by luring her rapist back to her house, violently restraining him, and then doing horrible horrible things to his anus. The contrast between what he did to her and what she does to him is shocking. While her rape is filmed in a rather tame fashion, his is a horrible, never ending, multi-layered violation in every sense of the word. And it goes on forever. There’s no explaining it. When the credits roll you can’t help but end up feeling sorry for Maya’s somewhat pathetic rapist and hating Maya as if she’s some sort of sicko serial killer. What is Lugacy trying to say here? The only thing I got out of it is that this is a movie which simply, and absolutely hates men and Lugacy is using the film as a way to take out her own aggression towards the male half of the sex on film via vicious, unrelenting, viciously graphic, anal penetration.
That’s really what makes Descent such an awful, awful movie. It’s not it’s misguided social message, it’s not the shoddy script which simply doesn’t make a damn bit of sense, it’s the anger that’s pent up in it and being flung so randomly at the world as if there’s no other outlet than to anally rape every single person in the audience. The movie, and it’s laborious, languishing, ending rape scene exists only to lash out at the world. What happens to Maya is just an excuse for her to become a very bad person, and the movie is just an excuse for Lugacy to live out her own twisted hate-fantasies on the big screen.