The Descent (2005)
A film with lots of not-so-hidden depths…
Neil Marshall put a smile on the faces of many horror fans when he provided us with the great Dog Soldiers, a entertaining and ballsy entry into the werewolf subgenre, so I was somewhat surprised when I finally saw The Descent to find that it lived up to all of my expectations and showed a director who loved the horror genre adding a modern classic to it.
The movie starts off with a shock and then lets you get your breath for quite a while before gradually closing in on you and then ramping up the frights. It’s all about a group of women who take a trip into a deep, dark cave system and who all enjoy their little bit of extreme spelunking (I THINK that’s how to spell it) until it begins to feel as if they’re not alone. And that they may be in danger.
The cast are pretty faultless here (one character is pretty annoying but the actress playing her does her job well) so I won’t single anyone out here. Oh wait, I will. Shauna Macdonald has the most to do throughout the movie, her character goes through a number of changes, and she’s consistently superb as the damaged Shauna, a woman rising to meet each challenge as she strives to recover from a monumental loss. But, as I said, everyone else is just great here.
Marshall doesn’t put a foot wrong with his direction either. There are nods and winks aplenty here (from the minimal, Carpenter-esquire synth moments in the score to the “Carrie” imagery) but things never interrupt the building of the tension or the flat-out big scares delivered in the latter half of the movie. This is modern day horror movie-making at it’s finest, a lesson in how to do much more than just make your audience jump every few minutes. Yes, there are jump scares here (and one of the biggest I have experienced, making me thoroughly embarrassed while I tried to look brave in the packed cinema) but there are also subtle moments of creepiness and thoughtfulness amongst the blood and rocks.
Perfect from beginning to end (IF you make sure you see the right ending), this is a film that I absolutely love and can watch again and again. I know many others who still manage to find fault with the film and some who just plain dislike it but I really can’t agree with their opinion or criticisms. And I hope lots of other people agree with me on this one.