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The Descent Movie Review (8/10)

Posted on January 7th, 2007 filed in Movie Reviews    |   

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Summary: One year following a tragic accident that killed her husband and daughter, Sarah joins her girlfriends on a caving expedition in the Appalachian mountains. Two miles underground they realize that Juno, the adrenaline-junkie adventure leader, has decided to take them down an unexplored cave route hoping that the girls would be the first to discover and thus name this cave. Things don’t go as expected however. A tunnel collapses blocking the entry route, trapping the girls and leaving them struggling for survival amongst numerous dangers that include their physical, mental, and psychological strains, a colony of blood thirsty mutant predators and each other.

Review: ‘The Descent’ is a tightly knit, claustrophobically filmed, skillfully acted and masterfully directed horror movie that is likely one of the most terrifying movies that have graced our screens since ‘The Ring’. You literally find yourself immersed in this underground world, with labored breathing, racing pulse, and facial sweats, wondering with the girls what lies ahead at the next turn, tunnel or chamber.

Director Nick Marshall is the master of his domain and he knows it.

He divides the film into three almost equal parts. The first part deals with Sarah’s tragedy, and her girlfriends bonding. The second part is a caving adventure reminiscent of an Indiana Jones Flick. The third and final part is where all the terror lies. Nick builds the horror and suspense gradually but still allows it to quickly reach uncomfortable heights. It’s the location, the bats, Sarah’s psychological ills, Juno’s deceitful and reckless masterplan, the tunnel collapse, the panic attack, the chiasm,…And as we squirm in our seats with these girls getting lost 2 miles underground, the mutant colony comes calling, and nerves fall apart.

Mr. Marshall manages to awe us with his undeniable skills in making us feel and live what is unfolding on the screen. His main weapon is his use of lighting using miner’s helmet headlights, green fluorescent tubes, red flares, and the camcorder’s infrared. It is this lighting that is crucial for us to discover this underground neverland in concert with our female spelunkers and therefore share their terror and fear.

Nick also proves that he can deliver great scenes that are quite unforgettable. The chiasm-crossing scene will keep you at the edge of your seat as Becca fixes the pistons and Juno falls in the huge hole. Sarah’s emerging from the cave like Carrie disturbs to no end.

Nick also astounds with his ability to convert a created studio filming set into a very real and credible natural cave-like environment. Had he not divulged this detail in one of his interviews, I would have never questioned that all filming did in fact take place underground. And as a fellow adventure caver myself, I would consider this make-believe world to be easily uncovered. But Nick manages to again impress and prove me wrong.

The script itself is well thought of, well written, and excellently executed. The intriguing point in this story of course is where does the tragic loss of Sarah one year earlier, and her constant hallucinations, fall in the story and the event line? We notice how the mutants first appear when Sarah is under significant mental strain. Did these creatures really exist or where they the fruit of Sarah’s imagination? Did she lose it and then turn against the other girls? Was her mental breakdown precipitated by her realizing Juno’s affair with her husband? We know from the exchanged glances between these two following the rafting trip that something is going on. We also noted with Sarah how her husband was distracted seconds prior to the tragic accident. Is it fair then to say then that the Juno affair lead to Sarah’s tragedy? Why does the birthday cake hallucinations have 6 candles at the very last scene when it has only 5 at the beginning? Is it because this caving adventure is taking place one year following the tragic accident or does six reflect the number of spelunkers?

This additional layer of complexity helps the movie tremendously. The film can now be explained and debated under different scenarios each of which appeals to its own fan base. Some may come for the blood and gore, but others will flock to see true suspense and a fine psychological thriller. And either way, Nick and ‘The Descent’ win.

The result is one heck of a terror tale that is as gorish and bloody as can be and as disturbing as one may imagine.

Verdict: Truly freaky and horrifying film, excellently directed, scripted and acted movie that will please all horror movie lovers and terrify all fans (including myself) of adventure caving.

Best Quote:

  • Juno: You think it’s dark when you turn out the lights. Well, down there it’s pitch black. You can get dehydration, disorientation, claustrophobia, panic attacks, paranoia, hallucinations, visual and aural deterioration…

    Holly: Blah Blah Blah, ….

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5 Responses to “The Descent Movie Review (8/10)”

  1. Howard Says:

    Loved this movie! I am a horror lover and I watched it without having any prior expectations. However, I was royally pleased. It was scary without being tacky, it was bloody without being childish, and most of all it was original. The interaction between the girl, the horror of the creatures mixed with the phsycological element kept it very real.

    Amazing, you say the movie was shot in a studio, wow, I would have never guessed, really looked like deep dark cave to me, it was so real, you lived every turn, every breath with those girls and you feel your nerves getting stiffer as they lose theirs….

    I would recommend this movie but difinetely not to children under 14 or even 16.

  2. Jamie Says:

    Hated the movie! Movie ‘The Descent’ came recommended to me by my boyfriend as this amazing movie that I must watch, so I got together with my nieces and sister and we watched it.

    I have to say that I enjoyed the beginning, the drama, the friendship, the athletic nature of the girls (kind of envied their strength and flexibility) but then there was a twisted change in events mixed with horror and blood and we were rather appalled even put some scenes on fast forward, my sister was rally disgusted and scared, and I felt the scenes dragged…but hey to each his taste!

  3. Fanfan Says:

    I have mixed feelings about this movie….It definetely did keep me at the edge of my seat.
    But would someone please clarify to me what happened at the end? Did she or did she not get out of the cave? Did she kill her friend for betraying her with her husband or did she imagine the whole scene? Very confusing? If you can shed some light on this dark twisted ending that was left suspended in mid air, I would highly appreciate it!

  4. Justine Says:

    This is my favorite movie ever. It keeps you on the edge of your seat, you don’t know what will happen next. I love the strength that comes through the women fighting off the mutants. Just all in all a great movie. Wasn’t too too gory. Wasn’t tacky. 9/10 for me.

  5. Justine Says:

    PS: For the “Best Quote” part, it wasn’t Juno who was saying all of that, it was Holly’s sister. Because Holly’s sister was just trying to protect and get Holly ready for what she was about to experience.

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