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Overall Rating
4.33

Awesome62.5%
Worth A Look: 16.85%
Just Average: 13.59%
Pretty Crappy: 5.43%
Sucks: 1.63%

13 reviews, 106 user ratings


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Descent, The
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by Jay Seaver

"Pretty much everything I want from a horror movie."
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2006 FANTASIA FESTIVAL: "The Descent" doesn't mess around on its way to being the best action-horror movie to come down the pipe in a while. It tosses out a couple of nasty deaths early, gives us danger enough for two thrillers, never lets up, and never takes a break for arguments that can really wait until the characters have survived the next five seconds.

What you need to know: Six women - mostly from the U.K. - are using their vacation to explore a cave system that their American friend recently found in North Carolina. Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) lost her husband and daughter a year before; Beth (Alex Reid) is her best friend. Rebecca (Saskia Mulder) is a maternal-type English teacher taking the trip with her less-experienced sister Sam (MyAnna Buring), a med student. Organizing the trip is Juno (Natalie Mendoza), who hasn't told the group that the cave system is not the well-explored one she implied but in fact one that's not on any map, and Holly (Nora-Jane Noone), her daredevil protégé with an even more acute tendency to leap before she looks. So, things are bad enough when a cave-in seals off their entrance; when they realize that they may not be alone...

Writer/director Neil Marshall was last seen with Dog Soldiers, and while it's unfortunate that he apparently can't crank out one or two good genre films a year, the three-year wait for his follow-up is well worth it. Dog Soldiers could occasionally get a little scattered, but The Descent is tightly focused in its tension, not giving more than a few moments' respite when things start to go downhill, but also showing a great deal of skill in how it constructs its story and gets us involved in the characters. We know that Sarah's going to be the one we're spending the most time with - she, after all, has the personal tragedy in the prologue - but we're introduced to the others without a lot of expository dialogue or obvious "Hello, my name is _______, and my personality trait is..." situations. The relationships between the characters are simple, but have the feel of history behind them; we know it's going to hurt when they're picked off.

It's interesting (and will probably a cliché in this film's reviews) to note that the main characters are all women - only one man has a speaking part and he's gone about ten minutes in, but I don't think there's any kind of statement being made other than "let's not waste any time on sexual tension". It is pretty cool to see an action/adventure movie entirely populated by capable women that doesn't treat their attractiveness as one of their main assets in getting the job done. You put men in this movie, and at some point it's going to be a question of male/female dynamics, and while there's a good movie to be made like that, this one does just fine without. Plus, men wouldn't stand a chance of getting through some of the passages the ladies have to crawl through, so they'd be dead anyway.

That it's these specific women is something of a plus, too. Shauna Macdonald merits a comparison to Linda Hamilton in the Terminator movies; she starts out untested but cranks up the intensity to the point of being a force not to be messed with in the end. She's a nice contrast to Natalie Mendoza, whose good looks and ability to sell her character's athleticism and skill provide good camouflage for how irresponsible Juno is, even if she can handle herself when it's time to throw down. Alex Reid brings warmth to Beth without making her excessively touchy-feely, and Nora-Jane Noone gets some good snark in her part. Sasika Mulder and MyAnna Buring kind of wind up in the position where their being less involved in the main dynamic makes them look like cannon fodder, but they're pleasant enough.

All this would be for naught if The Descent wasn't good at making the audience jump or scream, which it is. Things go wrong at just the right moments, and Marshall uses his setting's natural ability to induce claustrophobia well, while also managing to open things up a little more when he needs room to fight. It's nice to see caves that look natural, rather than sixties-sci-fi-show deals with flat floors that just look like a darkened sound stage. He's not shy with the blood, either, getting his cast involved in some brutal fights and dealing out at least one nasty "that really should stay inside" injury. The editing's got occasional "just show us what's going on" moments, but sorts itself out nicely by the end.

(Note: I gather the version I saw was the American version, which cuts one bit from the end, but I kind of think adding another shock would have been a little much.)

Hopefully "The Descent" gets a better shot in American theaters than "Dog Soldiers" did; I think the latter maybe had a blip in rep places before heading to cable. It certainly deserves that shot, and to become a hit; it's darn good from start to finish.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=12642&reviewer=371
originally posted: 07/07/06 10:30:08
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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
6/26/15 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
1/22/11 millersxing runs the gamut of gore with girl power 4 stars
7/15/10 Josie Cotton is a goddess At least as scary as a night in a shark's gut. At least. 5 stars
1/19/09 Camilo Espinoza Excelent 5 stars
11/25/08 Leo T fun, loads of good parts to startle... 5 stars
9/10/08 Borat Amazing horror movie 5 stars
4/15/08 Pete Chesworth Excellent film very creepy 4 stars
3/09/08 sumixam Really good, surprisingly so 5 stars
6/15/07 al smith nerve shreddingly tense amazing 5 stars
6/08/07 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
3/27/07 Mike Shady Awesome movie. totaly recommend it. 5 stars
3/27/07 bobb really cool 5 stars
2/28/07 THE REAL DEAL Predictable and a peice of crap. Go caving some time retard. FU Cornelius 5 stars
2/27/07 CARLENE HAYTON I expected more but I liked it! 4 stars
2/24/07 Dave One of the best horror films in five years or so. 4 stars
2/22/07 Weblynx Ok, scared me and entertaining 4 stars
2/09/07 Heather Watched with hands over eyes. Sign of a pretty scary movie! 2 stars
2/05/07 Indrid Cold Not so scary, but the psychological aspects make it an extremely satisfying thriller. 5 stars
2/04/07 Shobert O-V-E-R-R-A-T-E-D 2 stars
2/02/07 tony i like the way that nora jane act she's hot 4 stars
1/27/07 David Pollastrini The first scary movie to scare me in a long time! 5 stars
1/25/07 kris Better than average, some psychology. Hot lead girl. The US version ending is worse. 4 stars
1/13/07 Roxanne Meadows Yep, character are unlikeable and surface and underground geologies don't match! 2 stars
1/10/07 Tracey Chambers great movie. shows that anyone can become a killer given the right circumstances 4 stars
12/27/06 action movie fan a truly scary gorefest-above average horror film-has ture scares 4 stars
12/26/06 Spencer this movie rocked the first time I saw it and now it still makes me jump! 5 stars
12/04/06 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
11/21/06 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
11/17/06 Deon Smelt i think the decent is a great film i just carnt stop watching it after the first time 5 stars
10/24/06 Drew G OK, could have been much better 3 stars
10/22/06 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
9/27/06 Yoali It was perfect last week. i was alone at home... i didn't sleep! 4 stars
9/26/06 matt it was ok, some nice gore but could have been scarier. 3 stars
9/11/06 Rob Excellent movie instant classic 5 stars
9/04/06 bobby b it will keep you at the edge of your seat 4 stars
8/31/06 Mary Beth succeeded in being extremely unpleasant 1 stars
8/26/06 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
8/23/06 Dave One of the best horror films in a long time. 4 stars
8/21/06 G Sherfy Scary? I think not. Use the first half and chuck the last "Gollums in a cave" half. 3 stars
8/19/06 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
8/16/06 Loball Wow, total crap, horrible movie, corny plot, corny movie overall...only good if you suck 1 stars
8/15/06 DAVE einfach nur geil 5 stars
8/14/06 CJ Two-dimensional, dumb characters and a story full of holes. Overrated. 2 stars
8/12/06 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
8/09/06 Mase Not only the best horror movie of the last 10 years but one of the best of they year! 5 stars
8/09/06 Elisa Giro Aha! Is this film an allegory to the true meaning of ketchup? 3 stars
8/08/06 Doreen Hayes Loved it!! Great scary movie 4 stars
8/08/06 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
8/07/06 tox GREAT! The whole theater was SCREAMING. And it was mostly adults! Very high tension movie. 5 stars
8/07/06 Frenzy very scary 5 stars
8/06/06 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
8/05/06 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
8/04/06 TiGrBaLm good gory action but didn't scare me at all 3 stars
8/01/06 lee Great ending (UK version) 5 stars
7/28/06 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
7/07/06 Jambi The glowing reviews are absolutely head-scratching. Nothing special here. 3 stars
7/07/06 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
5/21/06 Paul Lanner Super Scary! 5 stars
5/19/06 Frenzy Great horror 5 stars
5/06/06 Ramin Najjar What happens at the end? 2 stars
3/24/06 Alice I was also a bit disappointed, it was not THAT good.. 5 stars
3/20/06 Lazlo MASSIVELY overrated, not scary, DON'T believe the hype...huge disappointment!!!!! 2 stars
2/17/06 Ole Man Bourbon I screamed once, but was bored most of the time. 3 stars
2/09/06 David Anyone else find that "Juno leg-stretching" scene in the hut sexy? 4 stars
1/28/06 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
11/23/05 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
8/28/05 Kenneth Clark Good for Saturday afternoon if you're not doing anyghing else 3 stars
8/14/05 .:*paris*:. OMG its like sooo scary deff a buyer,watch it with your m8s!! 5 stars
8/12/05 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
8/11/05 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
7/28/05 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
7/27/05 Luke Akrigg Easily the best horror of atleast the last 15 years. 5 stars
7/27/05 Lee Kernan Best horror film Ive seen in years, a truly great genre film... 5 stars
7/25/05 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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