Double Feature Friday: Bone Tomahawk & The Descent

An ongoing series of horror double feature recommendations, today's Double Feature Friday offers up two thrillers that explore themes of duty, honor, and friendship in the face of cave-based existential horror.
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An ongoing series of horror double feature recommendations, today's Double Feature Friday offers up two thrillers that explore themes of duty, honor, and friendship in the face of cave-based existential horror.

BY LIONEL FRANKENSTEIN

Horror nerds that we are, Fun Size Horror would love to share with you some of our favorite genre films, but with a twist: instead of just listing off some favorites, each week we'll offer up a pairing of two horror films that complement one another in unique or fascinating ways: Double Feature Friday.

Today's entry features two films that each follow a group--men in Bone Tomahawk, women in The Descent--who are bound together by loyalty, duty, and friendship, and find those virtues stretched to their ultimate limits when both groups are faced with the wordless horror of mis-evolved, cave-dwelling monstrosities.

BONE TOMAHAWK (2015/ 132 minutes/ dir.  S. Craig Zahler)

A minimalist horror-western to end all minimalist horror westerns, Bone Tomahawk tells the story of four men who each, for various reasons, feel honor- and duty-bound to mount a rescue mission in the face of insurmountable odds. The stakes: rescuing a kidnapped deputy and the town doctor. The odds: the kidnappers are a nameless tribe of "troglodytes"--a language-less group of hulking, cave-inhabiting cannibals that resemble something out of Cormac McCarthy's worst nightmares.

As the four men trek deep into the "Valley of the Starving Men," their dedication, sense of duty, and loyalty are tested in an existential tempest in which death is the only certainty. Entering the caves of the troglodytes, armed with nothing but the value systems that brought them there (and will almost certainly earn them nothing but an awful death) each rescuer is forced to confront a bleak, nihilistic hell whose disregard for right and wrong is matched only by its capacity for mind-bending cruelty.

THE DESCENT (2005/ 100 minutes/ dir. Neil Marshall)

Quite possibly the finest horror film of the past 20 years, The Descent features many of the same elements as Bone Tomahawk (a group forged out of friendship and loyalty is pitted against a cadre of cannabalistic evolutionary throwbacks inside a series of caves) but with the paranoia, jump-scares, and overall fear-factor dialed to 11. If Bone Tomahawk is minimalist horror at its best, The Descent is its funhouse mirror reflection: maximalist horror at a spine-shattering pitch.

Telling the story of six female friends who take a spelunking adventure into an unexplored underground cave and discover a nest of mis-evolved and very hungry monstrosities, The Descent takes the suffocating paranoia of horror films like The Thing and literalizes it as a series of narrow cave-tunnels and passageways that its characters must wriggle through to survive. As they do so, and as their numbers dwindle and are eaten alive, the friends begin to question their loyalty to one another as deep secrets are revealed, and each must ask what they are willing to sacrifice in order to survive.

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