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After seeing "Dog Soldiers" a few years ago, I wrote in my review - "Neil Marshall is the best new horror director to emerge since M. Night Shyamalan, though Marshall's style is more akin to a Dario Argento or Lamberto Bava." After watching his second effort, "The Descent", that statement is still as true today as it was back then, with one big difference - he has gotten better. "The Descent" is not only leaps and bounds superior to "Dog Soldiers", but also the best horror film of 2006, and the best horror film to emerge since "The Blair Witch Project". Seem like a strong statement? I mean each and every word of it. This is the horror film that all of the horror films want to be - the one that gets fans of the genre talking and even turns the eyes of the most cynical film critics out there. How appropriate that this is also the best reviewed horror film to come around in years. Lions Gate can crank out all of the $1 million budgeted films it wants - they are always going to show a profit. However, they won't manage to deliver like this film delivers. Neil Marshall has a keen mind, a distinct visual style, and perfect pacing - he knows how to make a quality horror film.
The film tells the story of a group of female adventurers who are always trying to find the next big thriller. The opening of the film reveals the tragedy that strikes one of the girls, Sarah (Shauna Mcdonald), but I will not reveal that. Fast forward a ways to the girls getting together in the Appalachian Mountains for a cave diving expedition organized by Juno (Natalie Mendoza). So, the gals pack up and head down into the dark recesses of the cave. Once down there, a freak occurrence reveals that this is a cave system that has never been explored - no one has even been down there and made it out to report it. As they travel deeper and deeper into the cave, strange things begin to happen. They begin seeing things - people - and hearing distanct noises that indicate that they very well might not be alone. The rest of the film you must experience for yourself. I wish I could delve just a little more into what happens during the second half of this film, but this is what separates "The Descent" from the countless other 'wannabes' out there. This is the kind of horror your mother didn't want you to see, evoking memories of "Demons" and "The Thing" and all the best of Italian horror and John Carpenter horror and zombies and demons and death and blood.
Kudos to director Neil Marshall for trusting horror movie fans to appreciate this kind of film. He didn't back down and go with a PG-13. Though he did change the American ending from the British ending, it did not hurt the film - it just changed it slightly. Marshall just knows what horror needs to be and how it needs to get there. This film starts out by telling the story that sets up the events of this film. We are introduced to characters - we learn what makes them tick, why they are doing what they are doing, and how they react with one another. Think about "Alien" - how Ridley Scott set up the characters and the surroundings - Neil Marshall does the exact same thing here; he turns the cave into a separate character, much like the ship in "Alien" was a separate character. He gives us the perfect amount of exposition before the madness kicks in, so that when the madness does kick in, it does so more ferociously - it knocks us right out of our seats. This isn't like "The Hills Have Eyes" or "Evil Dead" - this is all horror, from beginning to end. You know something terrible is about to happen - you just keep waiting for it. "The Descent" is absolutely incredible.
Take my word for it and see this film. If you are a horror freak like I am, it won't take you long to see just how wonderful this film truly is - horror fans just know. We can tell when we're watching a dud long before the first shitty piece of dialogue is uttered, and long before the first CGI creature jumps out and looks like something out of "Super Mario Brothers". Neil Marshall uses some of those CGI effects here, but he does so minimally, and when he does use it, the effect is not cheesy or inappropriate. He uses it just enough. Like "Dog Soldiers", he uses old school creature effects, and the cave-dwellers in this film move very much like the werewolves from "Dog Soldiers" - the same rhythmic patterns and graceful movements. There is just something extra creepy about someone getting slaughtered by something that moves like a ballet dancer, but eats like a wolverine. "The Descent" gives us horror fans everything we could want and more. It is a kaleidoscope of colors from the horror rainbow and a true joy. It is one of the best horror films I have ever seen.
- added 08/14/2006, 09:31 PM
I was lucky enough to catch a late night showing
of this film. It was hard to walk back to my car.
"The Descent" is truly a terrifying film and
easily a claustraphobe's worst nightmare. I really
loved the creature designs, the whole movie just
flowed so perfectly. I've yet to see the original
ending so I'm at haste to say I didn't care much
for the American one. I just hate that kind of
ending... I mean, it's not the ending in general
that I hated, just that last scene. Not only was
it VERY predictable but it took away alot of the
impact that the movie had on me. Even in that
wake, this was still an amazing film. 9.8/10 from
me. Certainly better than most of the shit we've
been churning out here in America.
- added 12/31/2006, 05:26 AM
I read about the different endings over on iMDB,
and wow - the US theatrical ending sucks. Pick up
the unrated DVD to see the true ending if you only
saw this in theaters. 10/10, but only if we're
talking about the original ending and not the
half-assed American version.
- added 04/10/2007, 06:30 PM
The ending I saw was the girl dreaming she got
away, then it came back to her stuck in the cave
at the end, implying she didn't make it out.
- added 04/10/2007, 06:45 PM
According to iMDB, her getting away was the
ending of the theatrical cut - it didn't cut back
to her in the cave, it was just a shitty happy
- added 04/15/2007, 01:04 AM
Christ, why does the US just ruin movies like
that? How do these people make it in the movie
business, when they ruin every decent thing
someone does with their movie?
- added 04/24/2007, 11:58 AM
I agree with most of whats being said about this
one. It was amazing. VERY creepy and believable
enough to creep the hell out most. The only part
that I was dissappointed in was the end. It was
like the didnt know how to end it so it just
stopped. I really think we could have done without
the whole "mental Breakdown" thing. It would have
been the same movie but made more sense.
- added 03/15/2008, 06:27 PM
for sure 10/10 is fine....
- added 05/03/2010, 12:22 AM
I found it to be
entertaining... but some of the raw stupidity we
were made to swallow story-wise was just
embarrassing. Lotsa plot holes and nonsensical
reasoning involved... but I suppose if you can
look past that, you'll find a nice gory gem in
Some really great ideas for
sure... muddled by cliché and careless
plotting devices. Some of the most gripping parts
of the film occur early on during the stressful
spelunking scenes. Once the critters show up, it
kinda spirals into predictability... but I can't
overly complain about that. It's just the stupid
set-up that galls me... the whole
"undiscovered cave system that a trained
guide decides to go along with WITHOUT a proper
map".... fucking ridiculous. After that, the
thing just kinda degenerated for me.
good "B" Horror flick. Turn off your
brain at the onset and you'll be fine.
one, am tired of having to do so.
PS: Saw the US ending... stunk
up the entire proceedings. Just terrible. That 7
is only if you tack on the film's original running
time. It's STILL a clichéd ending... but a
far better one than the garbage the US audiences
had to swallow.