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The Descent

A movie directed by Neil Marshall

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  • May 16, 2007
When I first saw previews for "The Descent," I immediately wrote it off as a copycat wannabe thriller like "The Cave." In fact, that's what took me so long to view this film. I figured that it would be just another dull spelunking horror flick. Boy, was I wrong. "The Descent" is one of the top horror flicks to come out in the last few years. The plot is simple enough: six ladies, all with varied intentions, head off to the Appalachian mountains for a weekend of spelunking fun. Once they hit the hole, however, they begin to discover a hidden agenda as well as some creepy, gel-skinned critters that are very, very hungry. The creatures begin to pick them off (as all good horror movie monsters do), but they don't do it quietly. In fact, these creatures are very vocal once they begin their attack. Who, if anybody, will make it out in the end?

The cast is headed up by Shauna Macdonald and Natalie Jackson Mendoza. Both do a wonderful job with their characters, Sarah and Juno, respectively. The rest of the cave-hopping gang includes the talented Saskia Mulder, Alex Reid, MyAnna Buring and Nora-Jane Noone. American viewers will probably recognize Noone from her role in "The Magdalene Sisters," although she has less hair in "The Descent." All of the cast do a wonderful job with their roles and do manage to muster some sympathy from the viewers even though their characters aren't developed too deeply.

The visuals in this film are breathtaking in two ways: the Scottish forests which double for the Appalachians are simply beautiful and the claustrophobic, dust-filled cavern squeezes tightly at even the most non-claustrophobic person's throat. Director Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers) knows how to highlight the vibrant greens of the forests and does so wonderfully despite the carnage that awaits underground. When the action does move into the dark, Marshall plays on the fears of the human mind by using limited visuals and near-constant dripping water, creaking noises, and violent growls, yelps, and screams. By cutting off the viewer's vision, Marshall notches up the suspense. He does sometimes rely on the "boo!" factor to get a few cheap thrills, but for the most part, Marshall keeps the suspense at a decent level and moves the film along at an agreeable pace.

The DVD transfer is wonderful, with no flaws that I noticed. The colors of the forests, as I've bragged on before, pop off of the screen and blood never looked better. Special features include cast biographies, a documentary on the "making of" and other obligatory offerings. My favorite extra, and one that I suggest viewing after watching the film to lighten the air a bit, is the outtakes reel. The "crawlers" lose a bit of their fierceness in a hilarious bit in the outtakes.

Overall, this is definitely one of the top horror films of late. Is it a classic? Probably not, but the fact is that when compared to other recent gorefests like "Hostel" and "Saw," "The Descent" rises above them. This is a definite purchase for fans of films like "The Hills Have Eyes" and "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." Sci-fi fans will appreciate this flick as well. If you have a weak stomach or don't enjoy gory films in general, stay away. Also, if you're claustrophobic, you might not want to watch this either.

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More The Descent reviews
review by . October 31, 2008
The Descent
Actually, I gave this movie 3 1/2 stars, but for the benefit of the doubt used 4 instead of lowering it to just 3. WARNING: Jeff Long wrote a fantastic book called 'The Descent'. When I first heard of this movie I thought at last they had made the book into a movie. Wrong. The only things the book and the movie have in common are the name and something creepy underground.     Six women, Sarah, Juno, Beth, Rebecca, Sam and Holly, love get togethers that include extreme adventures, …
review by . March 09, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: No one involved with this film can be considered a pro.      Cons: If making bad movies was a crime, everyone involved is a con.      The Bottom Line: Just . . . don't . . . bother.      Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie''s plot.      Pardon me for the sexist joke I’m about to make. Six women go into a cave and there is no one else to ask for directions; how many …
review by . January 10, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
Somewhat resembling a big budget `Blair Witch Project' for adults, `The Descent' finds six girlfriends from the U.K. spelunking in the caves of Appalachia after one of them, Sarah (Shaina McDonald), has a tragic family SUV accident. Wanting to console her a year after she loses her husband, Sarah is not always a happy camper. Everyone is all smiles in their mountain cabin, but soon we are confronted by the usual surprise tactics: people sneaking up on others, bats coming out of nowhere, etc. The …
review by . September 13, 2006
posted in Movie Hype
A group of female friends meet each year for a weekend of outdoor adventuring. After a weekend of white water rafting, one of the women, Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) is involved in a tragic car accident. Her husband and son are killed and she is left seriously injured. A year later she gathers together with her friends once again for a weekend of spelunking in the Appalachian Mountains (bringing images of DELIVERANCE and the cabin in EVIL DEAD to mind). Some of her friends want this to be a weekend …
review by . August 07, 2006
posted in Movie Hype
(Aug 6th 2006 - update below)  There are rules. Rules to the genre of horror. The Descent follows the rules, then surpasses them, then breaks them in its wake. This movie is phenomenal.    For years I slovenly sagged by head after viewing one dissappointing horror flick after another. Jeez what a sad journey, but now I am happy and oh so pleased to tell you my amazon friends, a new king (or queen shall I say) is born for horror.    The Descent transends …
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Kendall Fontenot ()
Ranked #32
Despite looking extremely cool, I have to admit that I'm a dork. I grew up on the outskirts of the small town of Oberlin, LA. I have since relocated to the Lake Charles, LA area.I love my home state … more
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About this movie


Claustrophobia and bloody mayhem collide in the high-adrenaline horror flickThe Descent. Six women (including one who lost her husband and child the year before, and one who harbors a bitter secret) spelunk in an unexplored cavern system that turns out to harbor mysterious, predatory creatures. That sums up the story, but--as with writer-director Neil Marshall's previous low-concept movie,Dog Soldiers--the plot doesn't begin to describe the riveting, stomach-lurching thrills this movie provides. The script affords the relatively unknown cast (led by Shauna Macdonald and Natalie Mendoza, both excellent) just enough room to make their characters distinct and genuine, so that when they're dropped into utmost peril our empathy is engaged as much as our fear. The dynamic direction and editing make the cavern a palpable, physical presence, even before the creepy beasts crawl out of their nooks. This is not a movie for everyone; it is extremely gruesome and will induce panic attacks in anyone with even a mild fear of closed spaces. But for anyone seeking something smarter, faster, and more wrenching than static torture-fests likeSaworHostel,The Descentwill draw you into its unsettling ooze.--Bret Fetzer
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Genre: Horror
Release Date: 4 August 2006
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 99 Minutes
Studio: Celedor Films
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