Running Time: 99 minutes
Starring: Shauna Macdonald, Natalie Mendoza, Alex Reid, Saskia Mulder, MyAnna Buring, Nora-Jane Noone
Directed By: Neil Marshall
Rating: 7 out of 10
An all women caving expedition goes wrong when they realize they may not be alone in the impenetrable dark.
Thanks to Gandalf from LOTR I always think of the quote “there are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world” when it comes to caves and horror movies. The Descent follows the story of six women who are adrenaline rush seekers. They decide to spelunk in a tourist cave system for their next adventure together. They soon discover they may not be alone in this isolated place and have little hope for survival.
What I liked most about this film was its blend of cheap scares, legitimate horror techniques, and finally campy and over the top violence and blood. Most horrors pick a style and stay with it. The Descent maneuvers its way quite deftly between scare tactics so I found it worked quite well for the most part. You must forgive the slow start of this film as it is in place to meet the women and incorporate a rather idiotic storyline of mistrust between them. Gone are the days of simple movie stories. Why can’t the women just head into the dark without contrived drama is beyond me. After the slow start the women descend into the cave so the fun or bloodshed can begin. The setting like all cave movies is a fantastic place for carnage. This film with limited lighting and ultra thin tunnels and passages gives a great sense of claustrophobia. The film takes the usual buildup of things half seen and creepy noises from the dark. That is until the evil in the dark is thrust terrifyingly on you and it is a fight for their lives.
The little known cast of women all do solid jobs in the acting department in this film. They have a believable camaraderie and are quite convincing. Some of the dialogue between them is weak but you can literally feel the rising tension between them as they battle for their very lives. I also liked the fact that these are not your typical female portrayals of women in horror. They don’t take passive roles when they are faced with adversity. They plod on and make sensible decisions in tight spots which leads to a more realistic watch.
The films slow build up is perfectly timed. A slow dramatic film quickly degenerates into a quick paced action/horror. The creatures in the dark are well thought up and while not super creepy as one would like, they are still better than average. I liked that the film also added terror with not just the creatures but also uses the spelunking aspect for full effect. Dark tunnels, sheer drops, tight spacing, and eerie sounds are all used to create a great overall effect of fear. The recurring tension between the girls is a little out of place and not needed but can be forgiven. The women literally try to scrape and claw their way out of this hell and it is a journey you want to take with them. Blood flies by the bucketful and it will have you on the edge of your seat because at any moment something can jump out at you from the dark.
Director and writer of this film Neil Marshall put together a horror film worthy of praise. It shows you do not need a big budget (7 million estimate) to make an effective film. He uses strong camera work and a great cast to keep the viewer engaged. Making the women capable and strong was the right choice for maximum effect. The film has a little of everything so if you like horror there is a little something for everyone. This is a great job on a horror film in a cave that so many people have gotten wrong before.
I give this movie a recommendation especially for people looking for all sorts of frights and lots of blood.
T Factor + If you like creature horror this could score higher on the rating scale.
T Factor – If you like great dialogue in your films this could score lower on the rating scale.
If you liked this film reel recommendations: Deep Star Six, The Cave