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Overall Rating
4.33

Awesome62.64%
Worth A Look: 16.48%
Average: 13.74%
Pretty Bad: 5.49%
Total Crap: 1.65%

13 reviews, 104 user ratings


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Descent, The
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by Scott Weinberg

"Just when you thought it was safe to spelunk."
5 stars

Just about a week ago I saw a chintzy little studio-backed horror flick called "The Cave," and I was probably a little bit charitable by offering the thing a half-hearted recommendation -- mainly because I'm a sucker for underground monster movies. And now what should cross my path but another tale of subterranean slaughter from across the pond entitled "The Descent," which is not only everything "The Cave" should have been, but a lot more? And oooh, a whole lot more.

We open with three young women who are longtime friends and frequent practitioners of semi-extreme sporting. Following a sweet trip kayaking down the rapids, one of our leading ladies is struck by a terrible family tragedy, which leads us to...

One year later, and the ladies (plus three newcomers) are gearing up for a weekend full of cave exploration. They're smart, they're prepared, they're raring to go...

And hoo boy are they in big trouble.

Basically, The Descent gave me everything I wanted from The Cave, and it delivered the goods in shockingly sure-handed fashion. The writer/director is Mr. Neil Marshall, who with this mini-masterpiece and the oft-applauded Dog Soldiers under his belt, is becoming quite the object of horror fanboy appreciation. Personally, I think the guy's 2 for 2, and both hits are home runs. And as wildly, strangely entertaining as Dog Soldiers is, The Descent is a confident step up for the sophomore filmmaker.

The Descent takes its time getting to the meat of the matter, but in no way is that meant as a criticism. The prologue, the early character development, and the first-act plot construction is handled deftly yet deliberately, as if Marshall wants you to get to know his all-female cast of characters ... but not too well. And heck, even before all hell breaks loose, Marshall does a fantastic job of setting up the tension, the claustrophobia, and the sense of foreboding malice. Suffice to say that The Descent is a lights-off, volume-up, don't get up for popcorn sort of horror / thriller / adventure combination.

Big points are due to Marshall for creating six different and intriguing female characters while being sure not to present them as broad stereotypes. One might expect the characters to wear labels like "the butch," "the bitch," "the whiner," and "the tough gal," but, with the help of an excellent cast, Marshall delivers six pick-wielding chicks who effortlessly command your attention, and they don't need cleavage shots to do it, either. Each of the actresses deliver solid work, although the standout has to be Natalie Mendoza, who plays a conflicted gal who's equal parts heroic, hateful, and terrified.

I'll not go in to any of the details regarding precisely what these women find deep below the earth's surface, nor shall I indicate as to whether it's animal, vegetable, or mineral in composition. Let's just say it ain't pleasant. The special effects are simple yet seriously effective, and the standout moment of squirmitude features the most nastily broken leg bone you ever will see. Marshall smartly alternates between standard cinematography and a documentary-style, which allows you to enjoy The Descent as a straightforward nail-biter and as a Blair Witch-style "you are there" marathon of malevolence. Plus, when used well, few things are scarier than the "night-vision goggle-cam."

If Marshall seems intent on making you wait for most of the "good stuff," well, he sure doesn't skimp once the dinner bell rings. The second half of The Descent is packed with slick surprises, shocking jolts, gruesome gore, and intermittently unbearable tension. And the director caps it all off with a denouement that's as stark and downbeat as it is enjoyably open to interpretation, which leaves the viewer something to chew over long after the end credits roll..

Bottom Line: This is a smart, slick, scary, speedy, and entirely excellent horror movie, and it's one that the hardcore horror hounds are going to have a lot of fun devouring.

As the studios churn out wannabe after copycat, the finest in cinematic horror usually seems to come from a grass-roots source. "The Descent" is destined to land in that ever-lengthening list of "word of mouth" favorites that the horror fans love to talk about, and it deserves a spot on your DVD shelf right next to "Ginger Snaps," "May," "Frailty," "Session 9," and (of course) "Dog Soldiers." Well done, Mr. Marshall; we can't wait to see what you come up with next.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=12642&reviewer=128
originally posted: 08/28/05 16:29:06
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2006 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Philadelphia Film Festival For more in the 2006 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 San Francisco Film Festival For more in the 2006 San Francisco Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Fantasia Film Festival For more in the 2006 Fantasia Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

1/07/14 Martin This movie does horror right, and in so many ways. See all endings, original one best. 4 stars
1/31/13 Charles Tatum Claustrophobics might add a star; good stuff 4 stars
1/13/12 matthew Thompson Dalldorf I will never enter a cave after seeing this 5 stars
5/15/11 stephen nettles AMAZING 5 stars
1/23/11 millersxing runs the gamut of gore with girl power 4 stars
7/16/10 Josie Cotton is a goddess At least as scary as a night in a shark's gut. At least. 5 stars
1/20/09 Camilo Espinoza Excelent 5 stars
11/26/08 Leo T fun, loads of good parts to startle... 5 stars
9/10/08 Borat Amazing horror movie 5 stars
4/16/08 Pete Chesworth Excellent film very creepy 4 stars
3/09/08 sumixam Really good, surprisingly so 5 stars
6/16/07 al smith nerve shreddingly tense amazing 5 stars
6/09/07 Danielle Ophelia Everything--the atmosphere, the exponential dread, the characterization--felt right. 5 stars
4/27/07 Total Crap It's "Kill Bill" meets "the Cave". This is a really cool movie. 4 stars
3/28/07 Mike Shady Awesome movie. totaly recommend it. 5 stars
3/27/07 bobb really cool 5 stars
3/01/07 THE REAL DEAL Predictable and a peice of crap. Go caving some time retard. FU Cornelius 5 stars
2/28/07 CARLENE HAYTON I expected more but I liked it! 4 stars
2/25/07 Dave One of the best horror films in five years or so. 4 stars
2/23/07 Weblynx Ok, scared me and entertaining 4 stars
2/10/07 Heather Watched with hands over eyes. Sign of a pretty scary movie! 2 stars
2/06/07 Indrid Cold Not so scary, but the psychological aspects make it an extremely satisfying thriller. 5 stars
2/05/07 Shobert O-V-E-R-R-A-T-E-D 2 stars
2/03/07 tony i like the way that nora jane act she's hot 4 stars
1/28/07 David Pollastrini The first scary movie to scare me in a long time! 5 stars
1/26/07 kris Better than average, some psychology. Hot lead girl. The US version ending is worse. 4 stars
1/14/07 Roxanne Meadows Yep, character are unlikeable and surface and underground geologies don't match! 2 stars
1/11/07 Tracey Chambers great movie. shows that anyone can become a killer given the right circumstances 4 stars
12/28/06 action movie fan a truly scary gorefest-above average horror film-has ture scares 4 stars
12/27/06 Spencer this movie rocked the first time I saw it and now it still makes me jump! 5 stars
12/05/06 Shawna Ride So-so gore happening to unlikeable characters; mostly a waste. 2 stars
11/28/06 Garkain sleep through the first have, then you have a great movie 4 stars
11/25/06 I-K Took long enough for this to hit Aussie cinemas... the wait was worth it 5 stars
11/22/06 jdean62 Hmmmm hard to say... for this genre it was good...but should have waited for the DVD 4 stars
11/19/06 Noel A great film, one of the most entertaining in a very long time!! 5 stars
11/18/06 Deon Smelt i think the decent is a great film i just carnt stop watching it after the first time 5 stars
10/25/06 Drew G OK, could have been much better 3 stars
10/23/06 Steve Newman I loved Dog Soldiers - thix ie even better 5 stars
10/19/06 nhlanhla it i a brilliant movie but i dont really understand da ending did she make it or is she sti 4 stars
10/09/06 Donna Gelpigi Has some surprise plot twist, but it gets drowned out in the sloppy gore overload! 2 stars
9/28/06 Yoali It was perfect last week. i was alone at home... i didn't sleep! 4 stars
9/27/06 matt it was ok, some nice gore but could have been scarier. 3 stars
9/12/06 Rob Excellent movie instant classic 5 stars
9/04/06 bobby b it will keep you at the edge of your seat 4 stars
9/01/06 Mary Beth succeeded in being extremely unpleasant 1 stars
8/27/06 cindy excellent !! 5 stars
8/26/06 M. Mirliss Utter brilliance in a genre that desperately needed it. 5 stars
8/25/06 --- Note to aspiring horror directors: This is EXACTLY what a horror film should be 5 stars
8/24/06 Teresa Saltos The monsters within the women were as scary as the monsters in the movie. Excellent film, 5 stars
8/24/06 Dave One of the best horror films in a long time. 4 stars
8/22/06 G Sherfy Scary? I think not. Use the first half and chuck the last "Gollums in a cave" half. 3 stars
8/20/06 Kaline totally sitting on the edge of your chair covering your eyes 5 stars
8/17/06 Pn. Everything was fine until the cawlers showed up... 3 stars
8/17/06 Loball Wow, total crap, horrible movie, corny plot, corny movie overall...only good if you suck 1 stars
8/16/06 DAVE einfach nur geil 5 stars
8/15/06 CJ Two-dimensional, dumb characters and a story full of holes. Overrated. 2 stars
8/13/06 Harold One of the most overrated movies of all-time! 1 stars
8/12/06 Jessica W. One of the best horror films I've seen 5 stars
8/10/06 Mase Not only the best horror movie of the last 10 years but one of the best of they year! 5 stars
8/10/06 Elisa Giro Aha! Is this film an allegory to the true meaning of ketchup? 3 stars
8/09/06 Doreen Hayes Loved it!! Great scary movie 4 stars
8/09/06 Mansi Dido Good fun. 3 stars
8/08/06 jcjs fun, blood, gore, cheap to make, entertaining, rocks, slime, yummy blood, scary, actioncraz 5 stars
8/08/06 tox GREAT! The whole theater was SCREAMING. And it was mostly adults! Very high tension movie. 5 stars
8/08/06 Frenzy very scary 5 stars
8/07/06 Agent Sands Decent horror flick save for wishy-washy cinematography and corny exposition. 4 stars
8/06/06 mek what the hell happened at the end 4 stars
8/06/06 Mike I'm in pure shock over how overhyped this was. This was just low budget crap. VERY let down 2 stars
8/05/06 Evil Wolfie Made me laugh... but that might just be my sick sense of humor... 4 stars
8/05/06 Ole Man Bourbon 1/3 scary, 1/3 boring, 1/3 crap. It's not that great. It's "decent." 3 stars
8/05/06 TiGrBaLm good gory action but didn't scare me at all 3 stars
8/02/06 lee Great ending (UK version) 5 stars
7/29/06 Nightjorn If this is as good as it gets...well...that's pretty sad for horror. 2 stars
7/14/06 Louise Great horror trip! Full of blood, guts and bone! Not for claustrophobics! 5 stars
7/08/06 Jambi The glowing reviews are absolutely head-scratching. Nothing special here. 3 stars
7/08/06 ES An ending that disappoints, standard effort from a marginal director 3 stars
7/06/06 stevo simply outstanding 5 stars
7/04/06 Dan Floreigh Loved it! Simply LOVED IT! Taught me to stay out of holes! 5 stars
5/22/06 Paul Lanner Super Scary! 5 stars
5/20/06 Frenzy Great horror 5 stars
5/07/06 Ramin Najjar What happens at the end? 2 stars
3/25/06 Alice I was also a bit disappointed, it was not THAT good.. 5 stars
3/21/06 Lazlo MASSIVELY overrated, not scary, DON'T believe the hype...huge disappointment!!!!! 2 stars
2/18/06 Ole Man Bourbon I screamed once, but was bored most of the time. 3 stars
2/10/06 David Anyone else find that "Juno leg-stretching" scene in the hut sexy? 4 stars
1/29/06 Laura Excellent in every way, to be particularly enjoyed by gore freaks like me. 5 stars
1/28/06 xtc the hype is no lie. See it in theaters with the sound cranked. 5 stars
1/26/06 Carlos I saw it 4 times. 4 times I was scary as hell. amazing 5 stars
11/24/05 Kevin O'Toole What a fantastic film! Creates an atmosphere which lasts long after the film is over! 5 stars
11/12/05 Vince One of the few horror movies which is ACTUALLY scary. 5 stars
10/30/05 Bob Had me peeing my pants 5 stars
10/25/05 chris fox (the god) a good film 5 stars
10/11/05 Heather Reid fantastic scary film 4 stars
8/29/05 Kenneth Clark Good for Saturday afternoon if you're not doing anyghing else 3 stars
8/15/05 .:*paris*:. OMG its like sooo scary deff a buyer,watch it with your m8s!! 5 stars
8/13/05 Jut Wow! another fantastic british film 5 stars
8/12/05 ES The cave is likely a rip-off of this, movie entertains but confuses 3 stars
8/12/05 A Carr Great! I watched most of this threw gaps between my fingers 5 stars
8/11/05 Mark Andrews Simple premise, wonderfully executed 5 stars
7/29/05 Nicole extraordinarily scary movie - strong women 5 stars
7/28/05 Laurabetty This film made me scream out loud in the cinema!! utterly terrifying!! 5 stars
7/28/05 Luke Akrigg Easily the best horror of atleast the last 15 years. 5 stars
7/28/05 Lee Kernan Best horror film Ive seen in years, a truly great genre film... 5 stars
7/26/05 Mark Barraclough Remember the time you saw the scariest film **EVER**? You will when you see this. Awesome! 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  04-Aug-2006 (R)
  DVD: 26-Dec-2006

UK
  08-Jul-2005

Australia
  23-Nov-2006




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