A group of women head out on a caving expedition only to wind up trapped and hunted by some dangerous creatures.
Written and Directed by – Neil Marshall
Starring – Shauna Macdonald, Natalie Jackson Mendoza, Alex Reid, Saskia Mulder, MyAnna Buring, Nora-Jane Noone, Oliver Milburn, Molly Kayll, Craig Conway, Leslie Simpson, Mark Cronfield, Stephen Lamb, Catherine Dyson, Julie Ellis, Sophie Trott, Tristan Matthiae, Stuart Luis, Justin Hackney
I thought I had seen this movie until I started reading about its sequel and nothing about it seemed familiar at all. I hunted through my movie collection and saw that while I did own it, I had never watched it. I’ve always heard how great a movie it was and with the sequel sitting here waiting for me to watch I knew that I must see the first film. You can’t just start with the sequel right?
The Descent starts with one of the more shocking intros that I can recall with a car accident taking the life of Sarah’s (Shauna Macdonald) husband and daughter in a manner most gruesome. Just the thought of what happened to her daughter shook me and I had to stop snacking on my chips. It probably took a good ten minutes before I got over it and headed back to my munching. By then the movie had a good hold on me and it didn’t let go until the end. Now, I’m claustrophobic so for me this movie didn’t even need monsters in it. Actually I found the second half of the movie when the creatures do show up to be less tense for me. Watching all of the women climb around in those caves caused me to voice out loud ‘Fuck that shit, I wouldn’t do that’ even though I was watching the movie by myself. Just thinking about crawling around in there caused me to tense up. An actor in a cave movie I could not be!
All the performances in the film were amazing and all the characters have a very distinct personality, which helps since they spend most of the time in the dark and it’s hard to tell who the hell is who. Of course there were a couple of characters I was hoping would get eaten early on and others I was rooting for. It was good to see that the movie played against what I was really hoping would happen when one of my favorites is wiped out early while another I hated sticks around till the end. Sure it’s sad to see someone you like meet their end but at least it keeps you on your toes.
I watched the film with its original ending, which was trimmed for its North American release due to its hopeless feeling ending. I’m not sure what the difference is between the two endings because they both don’t seem to leave much hope in there. With the sequel on its way I guess there was more hope than people imagined. I haven’t sat down to watch the second part but judging by the reactions I have read it doesn’t sound like the film stands up to the first one. That’s not really surprising because this was a spectacular film. I can only blame myself for waiting so long to watch it.
The creatures look great and it was enjoyable to see that they weren’t some overly powerful monsters. They may be faster but the women in the film manage to take out quite a few of them before the film reaches its conclusion. It was interesting to see an all female cast, able to handle themselves and even overpower some of the creatures, instead of being the whiny girlfriend to the uber male hero. The film still follows the typical ‘final girl’ setting though as Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) goes from being one of the weaker of the group to the true survivor. I guess you can’t get rid of every conventional horror trick, especially the role of ‘final girl’ in a film with an all female cast.
The ending of the film was good, even though I was a little sick of birthday cake by then. I don’t see it as hopeless although it certainly doesn’t leave a lot of room for survival. Will our ‘final girl’ really make it out of the cave? Could there be another character left alive in there? I guess I’ll have those questions answered when I watch the sequel. I’m just not sure I’ll like the answers. I could possibly be one of the few people out there who hadn’t seen this film but if you missed it like I did then I suggest you make a point of checking it out. With a great cast and a terribly claustrophobic setting, this film will have you biting your fingernails till the end.
Under the marquee – Will