The Descent Review
The Descent is a 2005 British horror movie directed by Neil Marshall. It is one of the most appreciated horrors of the decade.
It follows six women who enter into an uncharted cave, get stuck and then hunted by cannibal human-like creatures. The story has its strengths and its weakness. It starts with the protagonist getting hit by a car and having a nervous breakdown. She then comes with her friends to a cottage in the woods in order to heal faster with them. That is great because it developed the characters, although only slightly, but still above average for a horror flick. It is also a perfect beginning to a film and I like how it takes its time to get there with the cave arriving just after the third of the movie, thus creating tension and build-up. And the first sequences in the cave are terrific along with a very memorable and quite authentically shot finale.
However, there are some things that I really hated. For instance, often present false jump scares in the first half really got on my nerves. Yes, every horror movie does it, but here they really used that cliché way too often. I also was not a fan of the confrontation between the two women near the end of the film. Without spoiling anything, I thought it was somewhat unbelievable, too sensational and a rather obvious plot point. Now, about the crawlers. Well, they are honestly a two-edged sword in my opinion. Their design is quite good and realistic, if rather unoriginal. And their behavior is very realistic. But their inclusion was not needed as the tension was already there because caves are very creepy and dangerous places even without some horrific creatures. But this is horror so it is expected.
The characters are solid, but not great. Sarah is a typical badass female protagonist in a typical horror fashion. But she has her back-story which is great and she wasn’t too heroic in the end, although at times it was going towards that direction for sure. Now, Juno is a realistically portrayed character and her decision to leave her friend behind is awful, but understandable. The rest of the women never get much development and are quite forgettable.
The acting is unfortunately very weak and these actresses are obviously amateurs. The directing from Neil Marshall is stupendous to say the least with a great structure and some terrific choices. And the cinematography is excellent with thankfully not too dark to see approach. It is also a deftly edited and paced movie with never a dragged or rushed moment and the running time is just right for this kind of story. As for the themes, they are solid, evidently touching upon vengeance and feral mode during survival. But that is the problem, those are only touched upon and never properly or thought-provokingly explored.
The action sequences are well executed with at times excellent camera movements and very engaging attack scenes. But overall I was not a fan of them as they took over the picture too much in my opinion and gore is definitely overused here to the point of being really disgusting. As for the scares, well, the atmosphere is great and it is at times very creepy with some very scary moments, but overall it is not that frightening as people say it is, mostly because it relies too much on jump scares and gore. Speaking of jump scares, that is also a flaw as there are many times where I could literally predict what could happen which is never a good thing for horrors. But it has a great atmosphere and is very well shot, definitely helping it achieve its goals most of the time, even if it is never as horrific as it thinks it is.