The Descent

The Descent does to caves what Jaws did to oceans. You may have heard that before, but that is hands down the best way to explain just how claustrophobically terrifying this film is.

Neil Marshall is badass Brit director that gets horror, real horror. He showed off his considerable directing chops in the outstanding Dog Soldiers and followed that up with one of the most frightening and dare I say, best horror films of all time with The Descent (I have this film rated as one of my Top 50 Horror Films, coming in at number six).

What makes this film so great isn’t the character development. There is none of that messy stuff. Nor is there much in the way of backstory. Six women show up, introduce themselves and jump into a cave. What makes the film great is the dread and tension that Marshall carefully builds.

Over the first 45 minutes or so the film is excellent. It is unpleasantly gruesome (car crash) and then the claustrophobia tightens its grasp. After a cave-in forces the women (I say women because these are not typical horror chicks) deeper into the abyss of an unknown and unexplored cave system, you get the feeling that this is going to be a taught thriller focusing on the women overcoming obstacles to escape the cave. You would only be partially right to think that.

The women are trapped in a very scary cave. Just escaping and finding a way out would make for a darn good film. Marshall then decides to ask his viewing audience a question. The question Marshall poses reminds me of The Twilight Zone Movie. The part I am referring to involves Dan Akroyd looking over to his friend and saying, “Do you want to see something really scary?”

The Descent explodes into hair-raising chills from this point forward. At the first site of the cave creatures, even after multiple viewings, I still get chills. Marshall brings the unrelenting terror all the way to the brilliant end. I watched this with a female friend (who hadn’t seen it) and I honestly wasn’t sure she was going to make it – she was white-knuckling any and everything close to her. Hell, her being scared made me jump several times even though I knew what was coming.

I will watch the sequel shortly and put a review up for it, but c’mon the sequel is based on the Americanized (read: retarded) ending so it loses major points on principle alone.

Quite simply, there was not a more frightening horror film made in the 2000’s. And if you are looking for a lesson or moral from the film, I have one for you. Don’t trust the crazy Asian bitch – she is bad news.

Snore Factor: Z – One of the best

IMDB 2005


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  • Stacy

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen a horror movie that’s scared me as much as this. You got it right when you used the word “dread” to define the feeling that the director was going for. I saw this in a theater and was literally on the edge of my seat for most of the film…

    Funny thing, though, reading one of your other reviews, I find that we share a similar love for the classic “The Changeling”. I remember the first time I saw this.. I must have been about 14… I don’t think I slept for days after that, and it’s always been with me even 20 years later.

    I’m also trying to do a 365 horror movies in a year thing, only I’m not doing any reviews. I’m glad you’re doing them so I know what to stay away from. I really don’t want to waste my time on the bad ones :)

    All the best

  • Micah

    Yes, The Changeling is one of the best. I remember turning on ALL the lights during my first viewing and being absolutely chilled to the bone.

    Thanks for the support. Good luck on your quest as well.

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  • Georgie

    One of the best, definitely…. The thing I love most about this movie is how different these women are from the typical horror “damsel in distress”. They learn to fight back and their instincts for survival kick in, I love that!