Sunday, March 3, 2013

#930. The Descent (2005)

Directed By: Neil Marshall

Starring: Shauna Macdonald, Natalie Mendoza, Alex Reid

Tag line: "The Scariest Movie In Earth"

Trivia: Shauna MacDonald is slightly claustrophobic so she found it easy to act scared and panicky while underground

Neil Marshall has been a Godsend for genre fans. During his brief career, he’s already written and directed a werewolf movie (Dog Soldiers), a balls-out action flick (Doomsday) and a film about ancient warfare (the entertaining yet flawed Centurion). In addition to these, he was also the man behind one of my favorite horror offerings of the new millennium, 2005’s The Descent, a creature feature that manages to get our skin crawling well before the monsters ever turn up.

After months of grieving for her husband and daughter, both of whom were killed in a car accident she herself survived, Sarah (Shauna MacDonald) agrees to accompany a group of friends on a weekend adventure. Led by Juno (Natalie Mendoza), the most reckless of the bunch, Sarah and pals Beth (Alex Reid), Rebecca (Saskia Mulder), Sam (Myanna Buring) and Holly (Nora-Jane Noone) enter a cave situated in the Appalachian Mountains and begin their long journey underground. But what starts as a bonding exercise soon turns into a nightmare when a portion of the cave collapses behind them. It’s at this point Juno confesses to the group that she switched their destination, and, for the thrill of it, led them into a cavern that has never been charted. What’s more, she didn’t tell the local authorities where they were going, meaning potential rescuers won’t even know where to look for them! Trapped miles below ground, the ladies’ weekend from hell soon gets a whole lot worse with the discovery they are not alone in the cave, which is inhabited by a race of carnivorous humanoids. With no idea where the exit is (or if there even is one), Sarah and the others do their best to avoid the hungry creatures as they search for a way out.

The subterranean species that haunts the lead characters in The Descent is damn creepy, what with its pale skin, voracious appetite, and uncanny ability to sneak up on its prey in the dark. Yet well before we’re introduced to these monsters, director Marshall has already brought us to the edge of our seats with a few early jump scares (including one involving hundreds of bats), not to mention a general feeling of uneasiness as Sarah and the others snake through narrow underground passageways, often unaware of what’s waiting for them on the other side. To add to the tension, there’s also plenty of internal conflict within the group, including a bit of a history between Juno and Sarah’s late husband, Paul (Oliver Milburn), that only Beth knows about. By the time the monsters finally make their grand entrance, we’ve already chewed off half our fingernails!

This combination of creatures and claustrophobia proves a winning one, working in unison to transform The Descent into the most consistently unnerving horror film of the last 10 years.

3 comments: said...

What an awesome movie! The ending sort of blew, but what made this one spectacular was that you never knew where it was going to go, and where it did go, really shocked you. Maybe that was just me, but either way, this movie really scared the bejeebers out of me. Good review.

Liam Underwood said...

Nice review - I love this film.

It works surprisingly well before the creatures even turn up, with the framing utilised brilliantly to emphasise the claustrophobic environment. Then the things appear and it's just insanely good - such an awesome awesome movie.

bigwill said...

Dtmmr - without giving out spoilers, the UK ending was significantly different to the US ending, and very fitting to the film's tone. Not sure which ending you saw!
Anyway, good review Dave. I agree - a very unnerving film.