Watching this horror movie frees me to never (thankfully) need to personally go into a cave.
I have a friend, Matt, that is a self-proclaimed “caver”. An adventure junkie to the extreme, Matt never passes up an opportunity to don his adventure gear and enter into impossibly small spaces, where he then must crawl on his hands and knees for miles (literally) so that he can look at the rock formations before emerging from the other side of the cave with a sense of victory and accomplishment. Matt says that caving is one of the most incredible experiences a person can have.
Well, he can have it.
The very thought of climbing down into a passage almost too narrow for my body, crawling with my face in the mud hoping that I won’t get stuck and spending the entire outing worrying that either the cave will collapse or that there is some kind of man eating animal down there that won’t enjoy my intrusion is just, let’s say, not appealing.
So, instead, I went to see the horror movie The Descent.
The Descent begins by introducing the main characters, a group of longtime female friends that are all highly athletic and adventurous. Every year this group gets together for an “adventure vacation”.
Caving is on the menu for this particular trip, and the expedition begins well enough. Then, one disaster after another strikes and our heroines are left fighting for a way out of the cavernous tomb, and later for their lives against the indigenous life that dwells two miles beneath the earth.
The Descent does an amazing job as a horror movie on a number of levels. First is in the characters that lower themselves into the earthly menace. With six characters to keep track of the chances for ultra-poor character development is high – but The Descent treats us to characters that are believable and complex. The acting is good and there isn’t a weak link in the bunch.
As it dawns on the group that they are being stalked by these malevolent humanoid predators, their pretence of unity is utterly abandoned and this break down opens old wounds, particularly for Sarah (Shauna Macdonald), who has recently recovered from the deaths of her entire family. She is shocked to learn that Juno had an affair with her late husband Paul (Oliver Millburn), and this revelation acts as a catalyst that spurs her into action. From this point, Sarah decides that the only way for her to survive and escape to the surface is to be as savage as the creatures hunting her, and to this end she goes completely ‘Ripley’ on any of the Crawlers she comes across.
The caving sequences are extremely well done, and while watching the laborious climb the sense of claustrophobia is strong. It completely creeped me out just to watch the trek, worrying the entire time that the worst might happen – and when it does it is even more unsettling than I thought it would be. I was squirming in my chair and couldn’t wait for it to be over – while at the same time relishing the racing of my heart.
The monsters in The Descent are great – horrible and menacing without being over the top. It is very believable that such creatures could indeed dwell in the dank underworld of our National forests.
Finally, The Descent contains storyline twists and turns, gratuitous scares and jump factors of sudden and unexpected happenings (several of which earned a “yell out loud” from me) and the surfacing of hidden secrets and agendas as the adventurers sink deeper and deeper into the earth. Elements of justice and revenge play well here also, but as we have learned through so many horror flicks before, revenge has its price.The Descent is not for the horror movie beginner. If, however, you ARE a beginner and you want to prove to your friends that you can tough it out, then go ahead and jump right in where the big boys (and girls) play and see this movie. For the Horror Freaks out there,The Descent will bring you to a gleeful fright-space. The Descent is not as good as the classic Alien (to which this movie has been compared), but if you loved that one then you’ll likely enjoy this one too.