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Overall Rating
4.33

Awesome62.5%
Worth A Look: 16.85%
Average: 13.59%
Pretty Bad: 5.43%
Total Crap: 1.63%

13 reviews, 106 user ratings


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Descent, The
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by Jason Whyte

"And people complain that the Harry Potter films are dark...."
5 stars

When I was about 13 years old, I partook on a class trip to some caves just north of Qualicum Beach, British Columbia. I was thrilled to be going on the trip; hey, a day off school to go check out some caves. Who wouldn’t be excited about that? We spent a while getting up there, hanging out on the school bus ride as we listened to House of Pain and Bon Jovi tapes on our Sony Walkmans. Everyone was joyful and having a good time, even when got into the caves and began to cramp into the small cracks, climb the rock ladders and get dripped on.

Later on, after we had tried out one of the more popular “park” caves, we descended into a larger, more haunting cave (cavernous, if you will. Ha!) as the park leader told us about how this particular cave on for miles and you had to go underneath water just to reach the other side and get out. The enormity of the cave was so strong that the leader then asked us to turn off our lights so we can get an idea of its breadth. The moment came. The host asked us all to turn off the lights on our heads, and the entire room filled with black. Not black in when you close your eyes in a room on a Sunday afternoon, but horrific, endless, black that does not end. Kind of like the black you think you are going to see when you die. I left that cave visit to have a nightmare that night of being trapped in one of those caves, unable to get out.

The British-import “The Descent”, which is finally getting a release to North America, only made my fear of these rocky, enclosed spaces that much worse. It certainly gave my claustrophobic side a chill, but I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. The film had a longing effect on my own fears as well as a horror picture, and I may never watch it again, but here is one of the most haunting, terrifying films I have ever seen, and a ride that I feel must be taken at least once.

The film opens above ground, with a kayaking group who have a penchant for extreme sporting on their holidays. When one of them dies in a fatal accident, it leaves Sarah (Shauna MacDonald) haunted. Her husband was the one who died in the accident. A year passes, and her friend Juno (Natalie Mendoza; and I must make an aside: there has never been a woman hotter in a tank-top since Lara Croft) has decided to lead a group of ladies, who are mostly British, on a cave diving expedition in North Carolina. Juno leads the team, as some aren’t as experienced, even Sarah.

The plot description sounds light, but it is what is down in those caves to greet those women makes up the bulk of the film and shows its unrelenting power. The film begins on the claustrophobia of spelunking around in the caves, the girls wind up lost and Juno finally admits that the cave has never been charted before. It also probably doesn’t help that what is down further in those caves has already been spoiled by Lions Gate for its American release, which baffles me: shouldn’t the mere idea of women who are stuck in a cave and can’t get out be enough to sell tickets?

Nevertheless, it is really nerve-wracking stuff. There are a few “BOO” moments to go along with the terror of being stuck underground, but for once it propels the story and gives us a reason to shake in fear; to get us involved. What makes it even better is how director Neil Marshall (who also directed the cult favourite “Dog Soldiers”; unseen by me) and his cinematographer, Sam McCurdy, wisely only show the light coming from flashlights, flares and night-vision goggles to completely involve us in the darkness of the caves. This is a far cry from a picture last year called “The Cave” -- which this film may earn a lot of unfair comparisons to – that somehow had light coming from the background and from the rocks themselves.

(This film relies so heavily on the details of darkness, in fact, that it is best to see this in a cinema with no outside lighting or over-lit “Exit” signs, to fully immerse you in the experience.)

Sometimes, seeing a film once is not enough. In the case of “The Descent”, seeing it once is probably as much as you can take, but boy, what a ride it is. If you can see it more than once and get sucked into these characters in a real inescapable situation, more power to you. As horrifying as it all is and how much I was entertained by it, it still hasn’t ended my fear of that caving trip I took 13 years ago. Every time I hear House of Pain’s “Jump Around”, I think of that abyss of dark…

Note: this review is for the original, UK version of the film which features an ending that is unique to the horror genre. Sadly, Lions Gate has cut this ending entirely and has gone the cheap route of a “scare to black” for the final sequence. While I haven’t seen the US print of the film, if it ends the way I think it does, it’s a bummer. I’m hoping that it is restored for the eventual DVD version, which is currently available in overseas regions.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=12642&reviewer=350
originally posted: 08/04/06 17:04:55
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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

9/12/17 morris campbell good scary monster movie 4 stars
6/27/15 Quigley One of the most intense horror films I've ever seen. 5 stars
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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