The Descent (2005) – Neil Marshall

This is one of my favorite horror films in recent years, and I remember being completely unnerved watching it the first time, it got under my skin, and truly creeped me out. I loved it!

So as the penultimate film on the 101 Horror Films list, I was more than happy to revisit it.

I was a huge fan of Marhsall’s first film, Dog Soldiers, an over-the-top shoot-em-up werewolf movie, this one is more serious, and ten times scarier.

It is also a wicked little all girl film! And these gals kick-ass, each and every one of them, and that is very sexy.

Sarah (Shauna MacDonald), Juno (Natalie Mendoza), Beth (Alex Reid), Rebecca (Saskia Mulder), Sam (MyAnna Buring – my fave) and Holly (Nora-Jane Noone) get together once a year to hang out, and live life through a great adventure.

myannaThe film opens with them finishing up that year’s adventure with Sarah, Juno and Beth on a white-water rafting trip. From there, tragedy strikes, and in one shocking moment Sarah loses all she holds dear when her husband (Oliver Milburn) and daughter (Molly Kayll) are killed in an accident.

Troubled by dreams of her daughter, Sarah struggles to hold her life together, and we flash-forward to this year’s adventure. This time around they are in the Appalachian mountains and are going to go caving. The girls are ready, getting re-acquainted, drinking, and bonding, and planning for the morning.

Once they get underground, and are trapped by a tunnel collapse, Juno, who is leading the expedition, reveals that they aren’t in the caves everyone thought they were, and in fact no one knows where they are, as they didn’t file a plan with the proper authorities.

descent2Now, they need to find a way out of a cave system no one has ever charted. And just when you think it couldn’t get worse than that, we learn that they are not alone in the dark…

Even after half a dozen viewings or so, this movie still gets me with its claustrophobic setting, it’s incredibly tense, and well-crafted, and though, having seen the making of featurettes, and knowing how they made it, the film has me buying into the fact that it feels like it was shot on location.

Adding to the film’s realism is its lighting design, which is made to appear as source-based, things like flashlights, headlamps,  and flares, which paints almost the entire last act of the film in a blood-red glow.

One of the things I enjoy most about the film, is that like one of the film’s its compared to, Alien, the first half of the film is all set-up, allowing you to get used to the characters, know that yes, they’re friends, but there’s some static between them, even a level of competition, and more betrayal than you think.

crawlerWhen things go completely sideways and the girls are fighting to not only escape but to stay alive, the film fires on all cylinders, there are pulse-pounding sequences, Sam climbing across a roof, Juno’s fight with the ‘crawlers’ and its tragic end, leading to a couple of revelations, the tunnel collapse, the sheer claustrophobia when Sarah is trapped in a tight spot and Beth tries to get her to calm down.

junoAnd then there’s the original ending, which is available in the unrated version of the film, and is the preferred version of the film, by the filmmakers, fans and critics.

This is one of my favorite contemporary horror films, and when I worked in a video shop it was one title that I would consistently recommend to someone who was looking for a new scary movie.

It’s tense, brutal, bloody, has a kick-ass cast, and you just hold on tight to this wicked roller coaster as it races to its climax.


What did you think of it? What’s your fave Neil Marshall film so far?



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