The Descent

"Excellent"

The Descent Review


A huge hit last summer in its native Britain, writer/director Neil Marshall's The Descent finally hits the States with a compelling mix of action and horror. Not since Aliens have the two genres fit so seamlessly, if on a much smaller scale here. Marshall throws in a few twists on convention as well, just to keep things fresh. The result is a film that gives back some meaning to the otherwise overused "thrill ride."

The film begins with extreme sports enthusiast Sarah (Shauna Macdonald, whom you'll spend most of the film convincing yourself isn't Gwyneth Paltrow) undergoing a horrible accident. Her flashbacks to the event (not to mention the event itself) provide much of the startle factor for the first third of the film, probably the cheapest ploy Marshall uses, but he has much more up his sleeve.

To get her mind off things, albeit a year later, her friends gather in West Virginia to go on a spelunking expedition. Apparently cave exploration is good for post-traumatic stress. For the next 20 minutes or so we find out that caving all by itself has plenty of potential for horror. In fact, the goriest image in the film has nothing to do with what comes later, but is merely the result of a fairly routine mishap. Marshall wrings plenty of tension out of this opening act, but the best is yet to come.

It would be unfair to give away just what they encounter in the cave. Half the fun (and the scare) is in not knowing. (And, by the way, do avoid the trailer, which gives away one of the best moments in the film.) Suffice it to say they are not alone, and it would be much better for them if they were. When they discover this fact, edge-of-your-seat terror and lots of ill-advised running without knowing where you're going ensues.

From the moment of their first run-in with whatever's-down-there to the very end of the film, Marshall doesn't let up. It's horrible situation after horrible situation and skin of your teeth escape (or not). And, in a horror tradition dating back to the first zombie films, your supposed friends can be the most dangerous factor of all. The final two-thirds of the film more than make up for whatever lax moments occur in the first.

Adding a little spice to the formula is the twist on the conventional horror casting of coed terror with one strong male and, at most, one strong female lead. Here we have a group of all-female adrenaline addicts, not a weak link among them (though some are a bit more foolhardy than others). It's as if Marshall took the female leads from half a dozen other horror films and threw them all in together to take on his evil from below. It's one thing to see some starlet cowering in terror from an axe-wielding maniac. It's another thing entirely to see a group of tough characters in fear for their lives. Whatever they're facing must be dangerous. Jason wouldn't last very long down here.

By the same token, the danger they face isn't entirely insurmountable. In a movie like Predator or Jurassic Park, once you see the bad guy, it's pretty much over. Here, up until your last horrific moments, you stand a fighting chance. In a way, that's much scarier, because it takes a lot longer to know whether or not a particular character is going to make it.

Marshall ties all these elements together in a neat, bloody 99-minute package. The Descent is probably best seen at a midnight screening with a gaggle of like-minded horror junkies. The screams (and there will be screams) will be much louder then.

Reviewed at the 2006 Philadelphia Film Festival

Killer tree!



The Descent

Facts and Figures

Run time: 99 mins

In Theaters: Friday 4th August 2006

Box Office USA: $26.0M

Distributed by: Lionsgate

Production compaines: Celador Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
Fresh: 145 Rotten: 26

IMDB: 7.3 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Sarah, Natalie Mendoza as Juno, as Beth, Saskia Mulder as Rebecca, as Sam, as Holly, as Paul, Molly Kayll as Jessica, Craig Conway as Crawler - Scar, Leslie Simpson as Crawler

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Wind River Movie Review

Wind River Movie Review

After writing the superb Sicario and Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan moves back into...

The Vault Movie Review

The Vault Movie Review

Filmmakers Dan Bush and Conal Byrne attempt a mash-up of a frantic heist movie with...

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

The 2012 Canadian comedy Goon was one of those surprising little films that snuck up...

Detroit Movie Review

Detroit Movie Review

After The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal reteam to...

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Good news: Steven Soderbergh's well-publicised retirement from directing only lasted about four years. He's back...

American Made Movie Review

American Made Movie Review

An enjoyably freewheeling tone and Tom Cruise's star wattage combine to make this an entertaining...

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

It's been a decade since Al Gore's wake-up-call documentary won the Oscar. And here he...

Advertisement
The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

It really doesn't matter that this movie is utterly ridiculous, because the central pairing of...

Final Portrait Movie Review

Final Portrait Movie Review

A relaxed, amusing true story about noted Swiss painter and sculptor Alberto Giacometti, this sharply...

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Finnish artist Tuoko Laaksonen used the name "Tom of Finland" as he drew explicit illustrations...

A Ghost Story Movie Review

A Ghost Story Movie Review

Filmmaker David Lowery reunites the stars from his offbeat Western Ain't Them Bodies Saints for...

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

From the co-director of John Wick, this similarly styled action romp puts Charlize Theron front...

Girls Trip Movie Review

Girls Trip Movie Review

This movie's premise basically sounds like The Hangover with added black girl power. But it's...

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

There's so much manic energy in this animated action comedy that it can't help but...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.