Weekend Horror: The Descent

It’s here! My first official horror post is finally here. I couldn’t think of a better way to kick off this new weekly horror post than with a movie, and director, so influential in my horror loving life. The obvious connection can be made between the title of this blog and the movie we’re about to dive into. They both contain the word ‘Descent’.

the-descentReleased in 2005, The Descent is so much more than a horror movie (not to be confused with the book The Descent, by Jeff Long). It’s a great movie that just happens to contain horror elements. Director Neil Marshall (who also wrote the script) brings a cast of six ladies together on the anniversary of a tragic accident that took our main character, Sarah’s, family. The friends hope to reconnect and bring a sense of normalcy back to Sarah’s, and their lives. He quickly establishes who these ladies are and why we should care about them. Sarah is still reeling from the tragic accident. Beth is a teacher, Sarah’s BFF, and all around good person. Juno is the thrill seeker and adventurous type who moved away after the accident. Rebecca is the sensible friend and the voice of reason. Sam is Rebecca’s younger sister and studying to be a doctor with a bright future. Also along for our adventure is Holly, Juno’s new BFF and fellow thrill seeker. As you can see each woman has something to live for.

The ladies have a fun weekend planned spelunking a well known cave system in Tennessee. Turns out Juno and Holly’s thirst for adventure led them to lie and after a cave in, the ladies find themselves trapped deep underground in an undiscovered cave system. There’s no help coming. They must press on and hope they can find another way out.

One of the ladies injures herself (I won’t say who…you’ll have to watch) and the smell of fresh blood attracts a few unwanted guests.

What this movie does well.

Director Neil Marshall

Director Neil Marshall

Neil does a fantastic job placing the viewer in those cramped caves. There is a feeling of claustrophobia and paranoia in most of the half light and tight camera shots. The atmosphere becomes a character of sorts and adds loads to the overall tension. By the time our unwanted guests arrive, it’s easy to believe the general sense of panic. If you want to see how to create believable tension watch this film.

We already talked about the great script and characters.

The set pieces are incredible. You won’t be able to tell actual rock from the manufactured. Watch the special features, it’s worth it.

The “creatures” were meticulously crafted. The creature actors pull off  Andy Serkis-esque performances minus the computer generated graphics. I love it when movies use actors instead of CG. It adds a whole other dimension to the film.

What this movie doesn’t do well.

If you’re a fan of immediate action, you will be disappointed. It takes a good 45 minutes for the action train to get rolling, but once it does the action comes at you fast and furious. There are two endings for The Descent. Neil’s original ending wasn’t popular in the States (he’s from the UK) so they re-shot and “Americanized” the ending. I prefer the original ending. You’ll find both on the Blu-ray and DVD versions.

Overall Impressions.

The Descent Alt PosterIf you’re a reluctant horror fan, this is the movie for you. There isn’t too much over the top gore, language, and no nudity. If you enjoy a good scare and haven’t seen this movie, you’ll get your money’s worth. This film is a wonderful example of what an up and coming director with a limited budget (just over 3 million) can accomplish. Neil Marshall’s talent and vision are what makes this film shine. The cast, set, script, performances, and effects are all top-notch. This is horror done right. Not to mention The Descent is one of my all-time favorite horror movies. Period. And yes, I saw it at the movies and it was glorious.

Have you seen The Descent? What did you like, or not like, about this film? What are some of your favorite horror movies?

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5 comments

  1. This movie…don’t even get me started on this movie. I am a total wimp when it comes to movies, and my husband was supposedly taking me out to see a nice fluffy romantic comedy…only at the last minute he pulled a fast one and I found myself watching this. I have not forgiven him to this day.

    That said, I have to admit it was a very well-done movie, super intense from start to finish, and lots of great tension (and revealing moments) among the characters. When we got out of the theater I felt like I was actually crawling out of a cave. I’m claustrophobic, and you’re absolutely right the director makes it all feel very realistic, like you’re in that cave, too. I think it killed any desire in me to go spelunking, ever. 😉

  2. Me and the BFF were going to do “Hall of the Giants” in Carlsbad later this month, but it got sold out. Now that we’re not going to be crawling through tight spaces like this one, I think I could chance watching this movie. I do like a good scare sometimes. I see there’s a Descent 2. Worth a look?

    1. Descent 2 was a sad attempt at cashing in on the first. I’d recommend watching only if you’re a huge fan of the first. If you watch the original ending, you’ll know why a sequel was impossible. 😉

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