Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

I’m not much of a horror movie guy, mainly because sitting around and being scared just ain’t my idea of a good time.  I played the video game Doom 3 for about an hour before I put down the game pad and formatted my hard drive.  But I was a little excited about seeing ‘The Descent’, mainly because of director Neil Marshall.  Horror movie buffs are probably aware of Mr. Marshalls freshman debut with the surprising ‘Dog Soldiers’, a tense story about a group of soldiers on a training mission trapped in an impossible situation, surrounded by werewolves where the only way out seem to be to die.  In ‘The Descent’, the director doesn’t stray too far from that formula and in doing so, he avoids the dreaded sophomore jinx and creates a tense gripping film loaded with atmosphere and more than a few frights. 

The films opens with Sarah (Shauna McDonald), Juno (Natalie Mendoza) and Beth (Alex Reid) slinging down the rapids doing some white water rafting while Sarah’s husband and daughter look on along the rocks.  When they are done, it’s obvious that Juno and the husband have something happening on the side, but Beth breaks it up and tells Sarah and her family to head on back to the hotel while She and Juno clean up.  A truly horrific car crash soon occurs which involves metal poles erupting through skulls and Sarah has a family no more.

A year passes and it’s time for the ladies yearly adventure.  And though Sarah is still struggling mightily with her tragedy, she meets her two friends and three other ladies for some North Carolina cave diving.  The feisty (and krazy hot) Juno throws a little mix in the script for instead of going to some touristy low level cave, she, without telling her mates, takes them to a previously uncharted cave in the heart of nowhere.  Obviously, this where all the hell breaks loose.

Even though ‘The Descent’ ends up being a monster survival movie, it works best, in my opinion, as a claustrophobic psychological thriller as it is presented in its first half.  If you don’t like tight spaces, and you’re wary of the darkness, but you do like being uncomfortable and uptight, then the first half of ‘The Descent’ is about as good as it gets.  The walls are crumbling all around the women, their tempers are flaring, there is apparently no way out, they are forced to improvise and think, as this cave has never had anyone in it.  Or at least anyone human.  There was real tension as our heroines are forced to climb spiked walls and scale across virtual bottomless pits in effort to find out where that breeze leading to daylight is coming from.

But alas it is not to be.  It is about this time that we are first introduced to these hairless, blind, hominid wall climbing creatures with a taste for raw flesh and bone collecting.  Oh my these things are freaky looking, and they tend to appear in a fashion that had the audience literally screaming.  Some actually had to leave.  If you’re a of fan gore and blood spray, you won’t be disappointed either as there is enough brain axe, eye gouge, throat slitting splatter to satisfy everyone except perhaps the ‘Hostel’ crowd.

This was a very well done, effective horror flick with Neil Marshall poised to establish himself as a new master of the genre for years to come.  Again, as I said before, I thought it worked better as a thriller than as a monster movie, but still a success which ever way you want to look it.  Recommended.

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