Straight off his 2002 cult classic Dog Soldiers comes Neil Marshall’s first big movie The Descent, which Lionsgate will be releasing in the near future. Having just watched Sony Screen Gems’ The Cave on DVD and then Marshall’s movie in consecutive days only makes writing this review that much easier. Basically my review for The Descent is the complete opposite of my The Cave review.
In The Descent an all-female caving expedition goes horribly wrong. About one year prior to the day, one of these women lost her husband and daughter in a horrible car crash, today her friend Juno (Natalie Jackson Mendoza) tries to bring their friendship back together by leading them on an expedition. Back in the day the trio was courageous and daring, and Juno is determined to make a name for them (herself).
The hardest part about making a horror movie is coming up with a smart inventive way of causing the dilemma, and figuring out a solution. Neil Marshall slam dunks both to create a tightly meshed together film. The way these girls get trapped is brilliant, Juno is so concerned with doing something daring that she leads her friends into an uncharted cave she discovered- instead of the level 2 version they were signed up for. So when the rocks come crashing down on them, they are stuck in the middle of a pitch black cave with no idea if there’s another way out. I thought it was set up brilliantly, along with the conclusion, which I obviously cannot get into.
Marshall went out of his way to make sure this film wasn’t like anything else you’ve ever seen as he fills the cast with all strong women. The only male you see is the husband in the opening sequence before he dies. By having an all female cast you take two annoying clichés out of the movie; there’s no sexual tension between two of the characters (or lame sex scene), and you have no clue who will actually survive! Removing these two trite reoccurrences only solidifies the strong pacing of the film. But of course nothing’s perfect as one of the women breaks her leg after a fall and becomes a burden on them all (it seems to happen in every similar movie doesn’t it?).
The first 45 minutes of the movie are filled with tense personal moments between characters and some of the most claustrophobic sequences ever caught on film. I was so incredibly uncomfortable watching one scene as these six women worm their way through a small passage to the other side. Then Marshall spends time with a daring climb on the top of this cave over a seemingly bottomless pit. Where are the monsters you ask? In due time… in due time…
When these creatures finally appear on film, we get a little tease of them and an idea of what they look like- but when the big reveal hit the screen- holy shit! I am not exaggerating when I say I witnessed the loudest theater in the history of cinema. The prior record in my mind was when Samara crawled out of the TV in The Ring, this takes the cake ten fold. The final 45 minutes of film are filled with intense moments turning corners, waiting for monsters to drop out of the dark, and fight scenes that end with eyes being gouged out, heads smashed open and women’s rip cages cleaned out in a feast only these creatures could indulge in. The Descent is ridiculously bloody, violent and scary. I had seen the movie on VHS earlier this year, but viewing it in a theater is truly an experience on its own, so avoid Ebay if you will and see it in theaters first- then go run and buy your bootleg copy.
Neil Marshall has proven with The Descent that he knows horror films better than most of us as he has taken us for a ride that we’ll never forget. This film will go down as one of the best horror films in the past few years and I believe it will stand the test of time, which many horror films cannot do. When you walk outside the theater after The Descent, that first breathe of fresh air you suck in will never have been so sweet.