Directed by Neil Marshall, The Descent follows a group of young women exploring a cave in the mountains when they soon find themselves lost and subject to a threat they never anticipated.
On the surface, The Descent is just another movie about people getting lost in the woods and eventually getting hunted. There is something undeniably cliché yet something intensely unique about this movie that makes it very memorable.
What makes this movie memorable is probably what might also turn heads away. The Descent is unapologetically gory, with scenes that embrace blood in a way I haven’t seen since the SAW franchise. There’s blood in the form of sprays, leaks, squirts, and massive pools that could drown you. The movie also has some incredible makeup work for a budget of just £3.5 million. I happen to be a sucker for gore which is why I had an absolute blast.
Also remarkable at such a small budget is the set design and production. There is a sense of continuity in the entire landscape that feels natural. Closed spaces gradually open up to bigger spaces. The amount of water seeping in is consistent with the size of the opening. Wind only blows in certain spaces and echoes are heard almost everywhere they should. All these little touches add up to an experience that is harrowingly claustrophobic. I genuinely appreciated the level of detail and authenticity that went into making this environment come alive.
The movie also justifies all its characters even if it doesn’t give all of them meaningful arcs. Yes, some do feel a little throwaway but their time on screen does add up to the climax.
What doesn’t work
The main human conflict, although tense, has a juvenile conclusion to it that holds this movie back from feeling meaningful. Not to mention it arrives from conveniences in the story on which it heavily relies upon.
The bigger hurdle, however, is a lack of good foreshadowing. The second half of the movie feels very different from the first. The movie makes a sudden shift in genres going from a very relatable claustrophobic experience to an action thriller that feels plainly familiar. The foreshadowing for the monsterlike threat feels contradictory to what we discover early in the movie, making their presence almost unwelcome.
The Descent is undoubtedly cliché but makes its mark with its unapologetic use of gore around its smart set design, excellent makeup work, and an impressive all-female cast.