A group of close female friends on a yearly adventure vacation find themselves trapped and hunted in a series of caves by an unknown force that lurks in the shadows in The Descent, the second horror feature from Dog Soldiers writer/director Neil Marshall. After suffering a devastating car crash one year before, Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) is lured to the States with her friend Beth (Alex Reid) to a special spelunking trip by the fearless Juno (Natalie Mendoza), who abruptly fled from the U.K. after Sarah’s accident. Along with two old friends and a new acquaintance of Juno’s, the group embark on a cave expedition that takes a turn for the worse after a rock fall leaves them stranded in an uncharted cave with no map and only a handful of supplies to last them the rest of the trip. As tensions arise in the group, they are faced with another danger – one whose love of the dark is as strong as its lust for blood.
Any plans for the weekend? If not, this could fill an hour and a half of a Saturday afternoon and I’ll guarantee it’s the best part of your weekend. It will certainly keep you from venturing out for some adventurous cave diving anytime soon. Prepare to be scared senseless, and then, when you think you have it figured out, scenes built to scare you even more will shake your certainty. Aside from the fact that I think the name of the film alone is great “The Descent” (makes me think of hell right off the bat), I would give Neil Marshall two thumbs up for keeping this movie jam packed with tension and edge-of-your-seat scenes. Put the kiddies to bed before this one folks, gore is top priority!
After a tragedy one year before, six (sexy) female friends gather in the Appalachian Mountains to explore a winding cave system together. Soon after they enter the caves, a collapse blocks the path behind them and they are forced to press forward, hoping to find another way out. In the process they become lost, but still insisting they know exactly where they are. As anxiety and fatigue begins to put a strain on the group, they discover that they are not alone in the dark.
One of the women veers off alone and sees a humanoid, pale creature drinking from a pool of water. She quickly returns and informs the others, who chalk it up to hallucinations and disorientation. Awhile later, after the group is attacked by a couple of these creatures, the women begin to realize they are stuck in the deep cave among things who have evolved to live perfectly in the cave atmosphere. They are blind and only use sound to hunt. They use this knowledge, trying to remain silent when in the company of the “crawlers”. If the creatures themselves weren’t enough to be fighting against, the women begin fighting amongst themselves as an affair is revealed between the deceased husband of one of the women Sarah, and her supposed friend, Juno.
Throughout the entire film there is some very active camera and sound work going into creating a very specific mood. In the beginning you notice many full and wide-angle shots allowing for an airy and open feeling. But once inside the cave system, the cameral closes tightly in on the actors, which leaves the viewer feeling uneasy and claustrophobic. Very clever camerawork if I do say so myself. There are also many scenes where most of the screen is “dead” space, as the characters climb through the tiny tunnels that seem to swallow them up. The entire second part of the film is lit only from source light; torches, flares, glow sticks, and a camera’s infrared lens. Marshall uses every bit of the atmosphere to create the alien presence; i.e. the darkness of the caves, the echoes, the silence, and the hollow tunnels. All of this combined creates a deep psychological tension.
The Descent works well to provide a physical “hell on earth”. If there were such a place among us, this would be it. These hellish visions will stay with you for a while after you see this movie. Whether or not Marshall was trying to or not, this film has a feminist agenda, but without being preachy at all. It allows these women to let loose an inner strength while discovering what goes bump in the dark.
Anyone who enjoys a good horror flick will like this movie…period! As I watched this movie, alone at night on my couch, I could not help but move from one uncomfortable position to the next as the tension skyrocketed and carnage spilled into my living room. When the screen would go black, my heart rate would start bumping. This is not simply a movie where scary things jump out of the darkness – this movie is the darkness. Enjoy!