I remember the first time I saw the original “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” It was raw and visceral and left me feeling completely shell shocked: the feeling that there might, just possibly, be people that evil in this world. “The Descent” leaves me feeling the same way.
In a clever twist on “John Carpenter’s The Thing,” a group of six women go cave jumping under the lead of tough-girl Juno (played by Natalie Mendoza with enough balls to make Michelle Rodriguez nervous). Instead of taking her team to a previously agreed upon “tourist trap,” she quietly leads them to a supposedly uncharted cavern and, in doing so, may have just condemned them all to death.
Without giving away more than the trailer, it’s safe to say that they are not alone. As the film progresses, the characters begin to prove that they are as dark as the caverns they’re descending: They are ugly and brutal, and there are no heros here.
What everyone really wants to know though: Is “The Descent” as gory as the advertisements claim it to be? Hells, yes. It may not be the goriest film ever made (I still think that’s “Buried Alive”) but it definitely does not dissappoint. You will see decapitations, eye gougings, “Day of the Dead”-style gut rippings, and other tasty treats. For a film with a decent budget and distributor, the camera is surprisingly unflinching, and Writer/Director Neil Marshall is not afraid to let it linger.
Marshall also cleverly has one of the characters bring along a video camera. This not only makes for some nifty “Blair Witch” styled moments, but it enables him to use the camera’s night vision mode to show us things that would otherwise be unviewable. Nevertheless, “The Descent” is claustrophobic and dark, and it uses these characteristics to its advantage: keeping your eyes darting at the edges of the screen for a glimpse of something, anything amidst the black.
“The Descent” brings to mind (both visually and in its score) such films as “Alien,” “Tomb Raider,” and “Jaws” among others, but stands strong on its own. It has a bare-bones plot, and it has plenty of gore, but it has a disturbing subtext about humanity running beneath its surface, and I believe it will be considered a classic ten years from now.
“The Descent” is a damned fine film.
Pros: Strong cast. Solid effects. not afraid to show us the gore.
Cons: Because of the limited pallette of the film, it’s sometimes difficult to see who is who.
Review Rating: 4.5 out of 5 creepy child-like laughs coming from the darkness.
“The Descent” (2005)
99 Minutes; UK
Rated R for strong violence/gore and language.
Shauna Macdonald (Sarah)
Natalie Mendoza (Juno)
Alex Reid (Beth)
Saskia Mulder (Rebecca)
MyAnna Buring (Sam)
Nora-Jane Noone (Holly)
Written and Directed by: Neil Marshall
Viewing Format: Theatrical Release.