Features Live Action Movies

The Descent

Director – Neil Marshall – 2005 – UK – Cert. 18 – 99m


A group of female friends go on a caving expedition…which then goes horribly wrong – review originally published in What’s On In London, 2005

Here’s something different: a caving movie. Tough to pull off in terms of production logistics, since you’re dealing with confined spaces, often very small and lacking any light source whatever. Although the (fictional) cave system in question is accessed via the Appalachian mountains, this is a British film made mostly in the studio, where the cave sets were constructed or, in the case of larger spaces, faked by a variety of FX trickery. Amazingly, you never see the join and it all feels incredibly real.

Genre is psychological horror, at least to start with, as a group of female friends go on a caving expedition…which then goes horribly wrong. Mood is set up Dead Calm style via a traumatic car accident in the first few minutes. After that, the tension never lets up. There follows argument, panic, gory injury and more than a few surprises. Defying expectations, the proceedings stubbornly refuse to settle into cliché, keeping you on the edge of your seat right up to an ending which will sit in your mind days afterwards as a subject for discussion.

Brit writer-director Neil Marshall’s Dog Soldiers deftly delivered memorably distinct multiple protagonists. He repeats the trick here but with women rather than men. Impressive characterisations give half a dozen upcoming Brit actresses (Shauna Macdonald, Natalie Mendoza, Alex Reid, Saskia Mulder, Nora Jane Noone, MyAnna Buring) the material for terrific performances across the board. A dark vision in terms of both immediate sensation and deeper significance, it confirms Marshall as a talent to watch. Don’t miss.

Review originally published in What’s On In London, 2005.

Trailer (US):

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *