Written by: Wayne C. Rogers
A few months ago I purchased a DVD called The Cave, which was about a group of men who get trapped in a cave with strange creatures hunting them down. I thought the movie was okay, but not great. Then, I watched The Descent. I thought this was going to be a simple rehash of The Cave, but with women playing the lead characters this time around. I’m glad to say the movie scared the living daylights out of me! I must’ve jumped a dozen times while watching it, not to mention screaming and yelling, “No, don’t do that!” and “Watch out behind you!”
I have to say up front that I’m not a big fan of movies with a lot of blood and gore. I usually prefer my “horror” movies to be more subtle like in Shirley Jackson’s, The Haunting and Richard Matheson’s, Hell House. Though The Descent starts out in “subtle” mode, it’s anything but subtle during the last half. Still, I found myself totally engrossed and unable to turn away. I also found myself bonding with the characters and wanting them to survive the horrendous ordeal they were experiencing. Hell, here’s the truth of the situation. If I’d been in their situation, I would’ve been wetting in my pants. That’s how scary the movie is.
The Descent deals with six rather tough outdoorsy women who decide to explore an underground cavern in the mountains of North Carolina. One of the ladies, Sarah, is still recovering from the loss of her husband and young daughter the year before in a gruesome car accident. It’s supposed to be a simple expedition into a cave that’s tourist friendly; but Juno, the leader of the group, has instead taken them to an unexplored cave for the risk element.
Of course, the group doesn’t find this out until a cave-in traps them beneath the surface and they begin to realize there might not be another way out. The notch is raised when one of ladies breaks her leg in a fall, making the search for another exit more important. With a limited number of flares and no extra batteries for the lights on their helmets, this would’ve been a great survival story as it was. But, no, the notch has to be raised again to keep the audience from being bored, and we’re eventually introduced to the Crawlers, which are the creatures roaming around in the corners of your worst nightmares.
The Crawlers use sound to detect movement in the underground caverns, and boy are these creatures hungry for some fresh meat to satisfy their inner craving. They begin picking off each of the ladies one by one. The thing is these are tough ladies, especially Sarah and Juno. These women aren’t going down without a fight to the finish no matter how scared they are.
In one scene, Juno takes on four creatures with a large ice pick and kills all of them. I wouldn’t want her mad at me. The question, of course, is who will survive and who will die by the time the movie ends. This is where I got a little confused because the ending isn’t what you think it is. There’s still another twist to be had that will leave you even more drained than you already are.
The Descent is certainly one of the scariest movies I’ve ever seen. It’s an enormous adrenaline-filled, roller-coaster ride that will leave you breathless and wanting more.
I have to say that the characters were totally believable and had me caring about them from the get go. I’m not familiar with any of the actresses, but they certainly did an excellent job with their performances, especially Shauna MacDonald as Sarah and Natalie Mendoza as Juno.
The Crawlers were absolutely terrifying and gave me the heebie-jeebies when I went to bed. I kept expecting one of them to hop out from underneath and drag me back under with it. This was also the first time that I’d seen anything by director, Neil Marshall, and I was impressed with the quality of his work. The photography and stage design were excellent, which caused me to think the entire movie had actually been shot in a cave. I kept wondering how they were able to get all the cameras and lighting equipment down into these little, tiny tunnels.
The movie was just perfect on so many levels. It accomplished what the director set out to do which was to make a small, quality film that would literally scare the shit out of its audience. The extras include a behind-the-scenes documentary on the making of the movie, which runs about forty minutes, deleted and extended scenes, an interview with Neil Marshall, and two movie commentaries with the director, crew and cast. I’m now getting ready to watch it again, but this time with the commentary. Highly recommended to those who love good scares!
Oh, one last thing. When the actresses were discussing the making of the film in the featurette, they laughed when the crawlers were mentioned. It seems they didn’t see the crawlers until the first scene they did with them. In fact, they didn’t even know the crawlers were on the sound stage with them. When they eventually saw the crawlers, they all screamed out in unexpected fear and ran in different directions to escape from them. They weren’t acting, either. Neil Marshall definitely got the reaction shot he was looking for!