The Descent

The Descent ★★★★

The Descent starts off with a great concept- a group of six women go spelunking where no man has gone before and creatures run afoul. This immediate hook sets the stage for blood curdling, claustrophobic, and tense horror film with legitimate scares. This is a white-knuckle excursion into seriously scary territory, without sacrificing characters.

The film opens masterfully with a prologue in which daredevil buddies, Sarah, Beth, and Juno are white water rafting. After an unexpected tragedy befouls the women, we are propelled one year forward where these three women are joined by Rebecca, Sam, and Holly. Their goal-explore the dirty chasms of the Earth. Unsurprisingly, something goes horribly wrong and soon they find themselves sharing the cave with something else.

The central conflict involves the women against the albino, bloodthirsty creatures, but these creatures don't show up until 45 minutes into the film. While most horror films cast unknowns resulting in poor results, the unknown actors in this film are surprisingly effective. Shauna MacDonald as Sarah goes through a horrific tragedy and her transformation to badass monster killer was exciting. The Descent never resorts to boredom as director Neil Marshall keeps the tension at a high during the initial phase of their exploration. Multiple cave-ins, stuck in tight spaces, the loss of light, and the fear of dying to the unknown allow the intensity to build to a boiling point.

Gorehounds should also not be disappointed, as Marshall piles on the blood and violence. There is a moment involving a piece of bone protruding out of the skin of one of the characters that will cause even the strongest of audience members to flinch. Aside from the scares, the lighting is particularly strong here with the minimal source of lighting coming from the camera, flares, or torches.

While audiences have been treated to great horror films in the last 5-7 years, the 2000's were not kind to horror films, but The Descent stands out among the pack. Neil Marshall starts off with a terrifying concept and fills it with talented actors and bloody thrills.

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