The Descent

2006-12-31 11:13

After a car accident that claimed the lives of her husband and daughter, Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) reunites with a group of friends for an annual getaway. Group leader Juno (Natalie Mendoza) leads them on a trip through a system of unexplored caves, where they are trapped by a landslide. As they struggle to find an escape route from the caves, it becomes apparent that they are not alone, and they find themselves being hunted by a species of vicious cave dwelling humanoids.


The Descent is an unmitigated success of a film, any way you want to look at it. Made on a budget which must be a small fraction of a run of the mill Hollywood horror or thriller, it is white knuckle stuff from beginning to end, making many of the other horror contenders of the year look lame by comparison.

It also reeks of class next to try-hard films like Saw and Hostel, squeezing far more sheer blinding terror from a single glimpse of a bloodsmeared face than an entire five minute sequence of drill to kneecap torture. Not that The Descent doesn’t contain its fair share of gore.

There isn’t much original about The Descent, which may disappoint some, but shouldn’t put you off watching it. It cleverly blends a number of genres, taking the best from each one, while avoiding most of the clichés. Starting with a jolt early on, it moves between adventure movie, and psychological/supernatural thriller, as Sarah is constantly tormented by visions of her deceased daughter, while the friends set off on their caving adventure.

The better part of the movie takes place underground, and the cinematography is the biggest star, setting the mood perfectly. Ranging from coffin like claustrophobia, to vast temple-like prehistoric caverns littered with animal bones, there are some beautifully crafted set pieces. Don’t assume that a film set in the dark will be visually dull. There’s a fantastic scene where Sarah, covered in blood, emerges from a cavern filled with carcasses and skeletons, wielding a fiery torch, straight out of Goya or Bosch. For those in the right frame of mind, this film is beautiful.

The cast does an admirable job, and although the characters aren’t the most three-dimensional you’ll find in film, they are real enough to tug at the heartstrings when they perish. There is also a brilliant thread that explores the increasingly savage infighting in the group, giving a nod to Lord of the Flies. A particularly brutal scene involves Sarah and a wounded Beth, which will make you wince, but is also very moving.

The Descent isn’t perfect by any means, but it is a superb film. With studios puking out lifeless sequels and remakes at an alarming rate, it is a breath of fresh air to see something of this high quality. It hops so effortlessly between genres and milks so much atmosphere and excitement from so little, that it will probably be taught in film schools in years to come.

So, if you want a brilliant unpretentious horror film that keeps you on the edge of your seat for an hour and a half, go and see The Descent. You might just kak yourself.

- Ivan Sadler
Horror movie fans are in for a blood curdling treat with The Descent. It's easily the scariest movie of the year.

Babs 2006/09/26 9:50 AM
The Descent Brilliant, scary, unpredictable but pretty gory so not for sensitive viewers. I showed it to some friends the other day on DVD and they ended up holding pillows in front of their faces. This movie was released in the UK last year already and is available on DVD. Pity it is only released here now. If you are into good horror, don't miss it!!!!!
Miranda 2006/09/26 3:28 PM
The descent sounds gruelling and awsome
Lindsay 2006/09/26 7:34 PM
The Descent The best horror movie I have ever seen.
Gail 2006/09/26 10:56 PM
The Descent Well, i saw Hostel, i think if anyone managed to watch that one, then they can watch anything. Can't wait to see this one :).
Nicole 2006/09/29 6:54 AM
Eek, you mean its worse than...? I havent seen it yet but I HAVE seen The Hills have Eyes. Eek, do you mean to tell me that its scarier than that? Ok, I admit I do skrik easily but still... Cant wait!
Sam 2006/10/05 8:40 AM
The Descent This is one movie that will leave your stomach tied in knots. The scariest movie yet. Brilliant cast! Brilliant effects. Definately a must see!
AJ 2006/11/24 4:40 PM
Bloody heck Where you see the first cavedweller through the viewfinder of the camera in nightvision... I haven't had that much of a fright in years. Perfect.
Grant 2006/12/29 2:05 PM
Cowboy women? Deliver? I notice that this movie receive largely good reviews across the world. When I watched this movie, I had no idea that the movie would be received in this way. I have to concede that I stopped watching the movie just after one of the girls breaks leg. I didn't like the idea of watching a movie of women struggling and screaming and bitching. It made me edgy. Their thought processes about escaping the caves were also irrational. A similar movie 'The Cave' released earlier this year has a similar plot. Yes, it is very Hollywood in its style and the plot rather contrived. However, it is less nerve-wrecking because the surviving woman plays a less pathetic role.
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