The Descent

The Descent

****1/2

Reviewed by: Kotleta

It's a universal truth that there's no panic like the panic you momentarily feel when you've got your hand, or head, stuck in something. The Descent is 99 minutes of that moment.

In Dog Soldiers, Neil Marshall took a group of British soldiers and pitted them against werewolves in the Highlands. This time round, it's girls versus nature, subhuman cannibals and each other, deep in the bowels of North America.

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Every year Sarah, Beth and Juno go on a girls' adventure holiday. And then everything changes when a trip to Scotland ends in tragedy. One year later they meet up with three other adrenaline junkies in the Appalachian Mountains to go caving and hopefully repair a friendship, devastated by grief and guilt, but impetuous Juno wants this experience to be "special". Before long they're all trapped in an uncharted cave system with no guaranteed exit and no hope of rescue. Death seems likely.

A bad situation is made worse when Sarah realises that they aren't alone. At first the others think she's hallucinating, but once they too glimpse Gollum, dipped in slime, it's harder to dismiss. Struggling to reach the surface through a skeleton-strewn labyrinth two miles underground, the question is not whether there is a way out, but whether any of them can survive long enough to use it.

Even without the entrail chewing and rivers of blood, this film would be terrifying. It's tense, dark and claustrophobic - borrowing stylistically from Japanese films such as Ju-on and Ringu. If there's a horror fan alive who does not inwardly cringe at the doom-laden sound of slow creaking, they must be deaf. Wide shots of the mountains above contrast horribly with the tight, winding tunnels below and, unlike Dog Soldiers, there's not even a hint of comedy to let you catch your breath on the journey.

Sadly, Marshall loses half a point for not having any female friends. The one-dimensional characterisation of the supporting cast is reminiscent of Spice Girl branding techniques and their presence is superfluous beyond the obvious. Different hairstyles and accents are not an adequate substitute for personalities. It's a step in the right direction though and a welcome break from the usual pouty gun-wielding bimbos who exist solely in the fantasies of men destined to die alone.

This is a very scary film. Feel the fear and see it anyway.

Reviewed on: 08 Jul 2005
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Six girls on a caving expedition find they are not alone in the dark.
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Read more The Descent reviews:

The Remote Viewer *****
Scott Macdonald ****1/2

Director: Neil Marshall

Writer: Neil Marshall

Starring: Shauna Macdonald, Natalie Jackson Mendoza, MyAnna Buring, Nora-Jane Noone, Molly Kayll, Alex Reid, Craig Conway, Saskia Mulder, Oliver Milburn, Stephen Lamb

Year: 2005

Runtime: 99 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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If you like this, try:

Aliens
Dog Soldiers
Wolf Creek