What is more terrifying than being trapped in a confined space deep underground? If you said nothing, then allow me throw a few cannibalistic cave dwelling monsters into the mix and see if your answer changes. The idea of spelunking has always intrigued me, but much as one might rethink a love of swimming in the ocean after seeing Jaws, so does one rethink the merits of cave diving after seeing tonight’s movie, The Descent.
Year Released: 2005
Written By: Neil Marshall
Directed By: Neil Marshall
Starring: Shauna MacDonald, Natalie Mendoza, Alex Reid
One year after the death of her husband and daughter, Sarah is a different person. She has adopted her husband’s favorite saying, “Love Every Day”, and now uses it as a personal mantra. So when the opportunity to go cave exploring with a group of friends in the Appalachian Mountains rises, she jumps at it. When the group of women descend into the caverns, things start off well enough. Until a section of the cavern collapses, trapping them within. It’s only then that Juno, one of the group and Sarah’s friend, reveals that the women are not in the previously explored cavern they all thought but rather in an unexplored cavern system.
With rescue being taken off the table, due to no one else knowing their exact location, the women must find their own way through the dark and winding underground pathways of tight spaces and uncertainty. This isn’t the first cave system this group has conquered and that knowledge keeps them going, but when Sarah begins to feel as though they’re not alone down there, things take a turn for the worse.
The Descent is Neil Marshall’s second horror movie, after Dog Soldiers, and it’s a genre in which he really shines as a storyteller. Where Dog Soldiers was a story of a group of hardened soldiers defending a farmhouse from an incoming wave of werewolves, the evil encroaching in from the outside, The Descent is a story of a group of women who go caving and end up facing a legion of cave dwelling cannibal creatures, as they unwittingly go where the evil lives.
A lot of what makes this movie frightening has nothing to do with the creatures themselves, but rather the use of darkness on screen to convey how trapped and alone these people are. They have no way out of this horrible situation, but they have no choice but to press on in hopes of finding one. And if they can take out a few of the creatures in the process, then so be it.
The echo of water dripping somewhere in the distance, the sound of the creatures chittering away in the shadows, one of our heroines starting to hyperventilate in an untimely display of claustrophobia. It all adds up to make the viewer feel as helpless as the characters do.
All of that aside, the creature design is genuinely creepy and well done. The monsters in this movie are definitely not something you would want to see coming toward you in a dark cavern.
While the movie looks very cool, the writing and acting are not overshadowed by the visual aspects of it.
I know Neil Marshall has said in the past that he has no interest in being pegged down as a “Horror Director”, but he should really rethink that stance, as he happens to be really really good at it.
Should You See It:
Are you planning a caving trip any time soon? No? Then yes, I recommend this movie.