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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 Rob Gonsalves

"Believe the hype."
5 stars

"The Descent," a mercilessly effective horror film from Britain, is not a movie I'd recommend to claustrophobics. Or maybe I would, if I were feeling sadistic. After all, it is a horror movie, and when we go to a horror movie we expect to feel emotions like, y'know, horror. Usually we don't. This time we do.

Written and directed by Neil Marshall, who made the well-liked werewolf film Dog Soldiers in 2002, The Descent arrives with all sorts of advance hype about how nerve-wracking and gut-wrenching it is, and for once a movie earns its buzz. Once it gets going, it shakes you and keeps shaking you.

Six young women of various nationalities get together to explore a cave in the Appalachians. One of them, Sarah (Shauna Macdonald), endured a tragedy one year ago, and the other women hope to get her mind off things and surround her with support and excitement. The ringleader is Juno (Natalie Mendoza), who's somewhat arrogant about the great adventurer she is, or pretends to be; she even has an apprentice of sorts, the spiky-haired wild card Holly (Nora-Jane Noone, from The Magdalene Sisters). Rounding out the sextet are compassionate Beth (Alex Reid), climbing expert Rebecca (Saskia Mulder), and med student Sam (MyAnna Buring). As it happens, everyone ends up grateful to have a med student along.

About two miles down, a cave-in blocks the women's way out, and they have to find or make another exit. Between this movie and World Trade Center, being buried alive seems to be the en vogue terror of the month. That would be traumatic in itself, but Marshall ups the ante with subterranean cannibals who live in the cave and presumably subsist on would-be explorers. They look like a bunch of Gollums, though the credits identify them as "crawlers." The monsters are a slight letdown -- the make-up on them doesn't always fool the eye -- but the way the first of them is fully introduced to the group is a memorably chilling image.

The Descent has two different endings depending on what country you see it in; we in America are getting a slightly shorter version, whereas the Brit edition is bleaker and brings back Sarah's frequent birthday-cake vision for one last hurrah. I've seen both, and the American ending (approved by the director, who wanted to see how this alternate finish would fly with a different audience) is, in its way, more disturbing. Either way would be a proper way to seal off a film that plays for keeps and isn't afraid to turn its likable, strong characters into moral weaklings who will do what they must to survive.

Indeed, the true horror of the movie -- especially its one indisputably shocking moment -- lies not in crawling, squealing Gollums but in the film's certainty that even these smart, well-prepared women can be undone by their own flaws. The women are drawn swiftly yet definitively; nobody acts out of character, and so we don't roll our eyes at rash or ill-advised actions that, in a lesser movie, would simply strike us as stupid. The Descent isn't an exercise in unmotivated sadism like last year's Wolf Creek, the previous heavily-hyped horror import. That film wanted to be a gnarly endurance test but came off as callow showmanship -- like a ten-year-old boy, it wanted to wow you with how grotesque it could be. ("I wants to make your flesh creep," said Joe the Fat Boy in Dickens' Pickwick Papers, without actually being able to; Joe could've directed Wolf Creek.) The Descent is an endurance test, too, but it gives you something worth enduring, and -- for some, I'm sure -- just barely endurable.

Even the sequences of no particular menace, when the women are squeezing themselves through the tight nooks and crannies of that godforsaken cave, press down hard on your chest. I didn't go into "The Descent" particularly claustrophobic, but I think I might be now.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=12642&reviewer=416
originally posted: 08/06/06 11:24:41
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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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