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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 Matt Seaver

"This is what survival horror should be."
5 stars

“The Descent” is the perfect set-up for a horror movie. It starts out with the now-tired formula – six attractive women doing something dangerous. It takes a normal twist – one of them makes a seriously misguided error. Something bad happens – they’re trapped, with no way out, and no way to get help. This is normally the part where the killer/monster/virus/insane clown slaughters them all, one by one. But in most horror movies, the villain never has to deal with anyone who kicks nearly this much ass.

The story, for what it’s worth, revolves around Sarah (Shauna Macdonald), a young woman who’s dealt with way too much trauma in her young life. Year(s) earlier, Sarah was in a car accident that left her husband and her young daughter dead, something from which she still hasn’t fully recovered. As an attempt to further that recovery, she’s meeting five friends in the woods in America to go cave diving. They’ve always had a good time with this sort of thing, and it seems like just the right move to get Sarah back into life. Led by Juno (Natalie Mendoza), they arrive at camp for the night to drink and prep for the day ahead. There we see a little more of Sarah’s fractured emotional state, through her nightmares about the deaths of her family.

The next day, they head out for the entrance to the cave they’re going to explore. At first, it’s all more or less fun and easy, nothing the girls can’t handle. But when squeezing through a particularly tight passage, Sarah gets stuck and starts to freak out. Beth (Alex Reid) tries to help her through it and rejoin the others, difficult in the claustrophobic tunnel.

And then the damn thing starts to collapse.

They race out and regroup, now realizing that the entrance they came through has been sealed shut. It’s OK, because there are other entrances to the cave system they were talking about exploring… oops. We’re not in that cave system! Juno switched it last minute in order to make the trip more exciting, so that they could “discover” this system together and have a truly unique experience. Needless to say, this pisses everyone off, and the friendships start to strain under such a high-pressure situation.

And then they hear something. And see something. And it wants them out of its cave.

This is the flow of The Descent, done in brilliant fashion. Everything goes from fine to terrible in a matter of minutes – there’s no release before the tension builds again; every possible bad thing gets dumped on these women within a ten minute span. Writer/director Neil Marshall has no issue showing EXACTLY how bad this is getting, either. This is one of the most cringe-worthy horror films I’ve seen in some time, and not just for “the big scares.” In fact, more cringes come from real life injuries, accidents that put something outside the human body that has no reason to be outside the body. It’s gross, and really, really effective.

The film is almost too tightly written, giving the exact amount of exposition needed for the audience to understand who these people are and how they know each other. After that’s out of the way, he starts throwing problems at them, and doesn’t really let up until the very end. There are a few moments at the end of the film where conflicts take the worst possible turn for the remaining women, worse than anything that had hit them previously. It’s so well orchestrated that you lose the fact that the film’s been running on adrenaline for an hour and that the story thus far has been somewhat thrown out the window until it suddenly pops back up in a very decisive way.

It’s very well shot as well. It looks good, although a little generic, while the women are at camp above ground. Marshall really starts to have fun once they get in the caves, though, with great open chamber shots including stalactites and stalagmites, dramatic angles, and shots preceding them through very tight tunnels. There are times where he lets his red filter go a little bit crazy, but given the situation, I can’t blame him.

I don’t want to say too much about them, because too much would spoil the priceless first appearance, but the inhabitants of this cave are scary as all hell, and fun to watch. The fights barely looked choreographed, they’re so frantic and desperate, both on the parts of the women and on the parts of the “crawlers” who only know one way to deal with this invasion.

I haven’t been scared like that since… I don’t even know. After proving right away that he’s not going to mess around, Marshall builds his anticipation so well, and teases the audience for the first half hour in the cave. When the payoff finally comes, it’s serious. I admire the fact that he took a pretty standard horror formula – women attacked by monsters – but didn’t put in a man to save them, and made his heroines far from helpless. This is an awesome film to watch with people, if only to see their reactions. Just don’t forget that you’ll probably be making plenty of your own as well.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=12642&reviewer=412
originally posted: 09/07/06 00:40:20
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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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