The Descent (2005) Review for Halloween Horror Fest

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The Descent (2005)

Directed by Neil Marshall

Shauna Macdonald
Natalie Mendoza
Alex Reid
Saskia Mulder
MyAnna Buring
Nora Jane Noone

Running time: 99 minutes

Plot Synopsis:
A year after tragedy strikes for Sarah, one of a group of adventurous female friends, the women decide to reunite for a caving expedition in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina. When part of the cave collapses, trapping them inside, the group of friends must find another way out. They soon find themselves fighting for survival when they realize that they aren’t the only ones in the caves.

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My Opinion:

This is my third review for Halloween Horror Fest (and I have a lot more to go!). I first reviewed From Beyond followed by ParaNorman. I’d always wanted to see The Descent and was finally convinced to check it out after reading Kim’s very positive review of it at Tranquil Dreams HERE.

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I find pretty much all modern horrors a huge disappointment. I love old school horror (well, mainly from the 70s & 80s but that’s old school to the new generation). I’ve liked very few horror movies in recent years. So, I’m happy to say that I did really enjoy The Descent.

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I know that The Descent is quite a well-liked film. It has a rating of 7.2 at IMDB which is REALLY high for a horror. I can kind of see why as I think it was really a film of two parts and those very different parts tick the boxes for more than just one type of horror fan.

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For someone like me, I found the first half of the film to be the most satisfying. The film takes its time introducing us to the characters & giving us a decent backstory for the main three friends. We then find out later that there’s something much more to the story of Sarah and a girl named Juno, who is the one who has planned this caving expedition. The movie gives us the clues to figure out exactly what happened between these two in the past without ever assuming the audience is stupid and actually spelling it all out to us. Great stuff. I loved their story and it’s what made the film for me. I cared about Sarah’s character. Too many horror films have poorly developed characters that you either hate or just don’t care about so how refreshing to not have that be the case here.

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The other thing that worked for me was the beginning of the expedition into the caves, before things even turn violent. I think claustrophobia is a pretty common fear (I will never ever EVER use the tube in London again during rush hour – I started hyperventilating once and thought those damn doors would never open at one point when I was thoroughly squished!). So when the women start crawling through some VERY tight spaces, I couldn’t bear to watch. Especially when, of course, one of them gets stuck and starts panicking. As I would. I looked away, which I only ever do during gory scenes. It was stressing me out. And I thought the caves looked pretty damn good, too, considering they were just sets built at Pinewood Studios.

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When the violence starts, The Descent turns into a much different film. Now, I’ve known for years what’s in the caves and I think it’s always been fairly common knowledge but maybe I should put POTENTIAL SPOILER WARNING here to discuss it…

As far as horrors with “creatures” go, I’m sometimes a fan and sometimes not. I guess it depends on how good the film is overall and how well they do making the creatures look believable or, at least, not laughable. I didn’t have too much of a problem with the creatures in The Descent. They were believable enough and you could almost buy into their existence (as far as fantasy movieland is concerned). This is the point of the movie where it was less “my type of horror” and more for other people but, hey – that’s why this film has done so well: there’s something for everyone. And there was plenty of blood spewing all over the place for the gorehounds but it actually wasn’t TOO over the top (as far as horror films go) for someone like me. I didn’t even really have to look away so that was nice. So, even though this part of the film wasn’t “me” so much, I actually ended up liking it and it didn’t make me like the film any less overall.

AND – as I was moaning on Twitter the other day, most horror films have really horrible endings. It’s not very often that I find the end of a horror film very satisfying. But, yeah – I did like the ending for The Descent. Luckily I had the British version of the film. After later watching the American ending online, thank god that’s not the original one I saw. That was rubbish! So be sure to watch the British version if you’ve never seen it.

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The Descent is a solid modern horror film that will keep various types of horror fans happy. It’s full of strong female characters who kick some ass, make *some* smart decisions, and don’t go around just screaming and ripping their tops off (I know this might be disappointing to male viewers but how nice this was for a change for female horror fans). You care about the lead character and are rewarded with an interesting backstory that is kept subtle enough to not turn things into a soap opera. The claustrophobic caves alone were enough to scare me but, for those who think all of the above sounds boring, the film also has plenty of blood splattering all over the place as well (without being ridiculously over the top). I’m glad I’ve finally watched it and will now be watching Neil Marshall’s Dog Soldiers within the next week based on how much I liked this.

My Rating: 8/10

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This is probably the only horror film that I and the crazy horror movie maniac I work with (I swear that guy has bodies under his floorboards) will ever agree on.