(dir. Neil Marshall)
There are some dark spaces that are never meant to be explored. If Neil Marshal’s film proves anything, it’s that sometimes it’s hard to be sure who’s with you in dark. The Descent is a tightly paced, claustrophobia-inducing film that never lets you breathe easily. It’s bleak and bloody, but never loses site of its characters. The film follows a group of female spelunkers who become trapped in an unexplored cave system. They face hallucinations, paranoia, panic attacks, disorientation, and broken limbs. And then the blind, cave creatures attack, turning a plan to escape into a savage struggle for survival.
Marshall handles the dimly lit scenes well, insuring that the audience is able see enough to know what’s happening but be kept in the dark long enough to get a sense of disorientation. The film builds tension incredibly well; even before the creatures enter the picture, the film is brimming with an almost palpable sense of danger. That danger never becomes stagnant and the there’s a true sense of progression in the perils faced, leading to a terrific climax that never feels repetitive.
Protagonist, Sarah, undergoes quite an evolution through the film, one that mirrors her journey through the cave system. While the creatures are effectively used, it’s really Sarah’s descent into the dark spaces of her mind that makes the film so chilling. By the film’s end she’s barely recognizable as the woman she was before, proving there’s more than one way to find freedom.
Scare Factor: 5/5 The Descent is the kind of fantastically gripping film that leaves you with sweaty palms. It’s an example of the best kind of horror where genre conventions work in tangent with character development, creating a layered morality story that’s more than just a creature feature. Fair warning though, there’s a high probability you won’t want to explore any caves after watching this.