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The Descent (2005) 

Written and Directed by Neil Marshall

   There’s no better setting for a Horror film then in the dark and what better choice than to take that 2 miles underneath the surface? But first, a warning. I’ve only ever seen the Original Unrated Cut, which is the UK version. Which if not for the test screenings and studio, wouldn’t have been changed to begin with. But people just love their freaking happy endings. Though I went ahead and viewed it to see what all the fuss was about and much prefer this version either way. Neil Marshall stating that two influences while filming were The Shining and Deliverance, which are prevalent throughout if you pay enough attention. No actual caves were used in the making of this film. Which also says quite a bit about the crew and how well they were able to depict such. Instead, they built six sets and alternated between different settings as they shot in sequential order. Also having a one inch tank made and over 1000 bones for the 7 week shooting period; having each Actress climb and work on their upper body strength to prepare for their roles.

The story follows a group of females whose passion for the outdoors has fueled their otherwise, extracurricular activities with one another. We open the film with Sarah, (Shauna Macdonald) Juno (Natalie Mendoza) and Beth (Alex Reid) who are their own close-knit group. Of which we find the three rafting (doing their own stunts); needing an extremely huge insurance coverage the day of in order to even shoot. As they finish up and get out, each head home when an accident occurs with Sarah’s husband and daughter losing their life. A year later the girls are joined by Becca, (Saskia Mulder) Sam (MyAnna Buring) and Holly (Nora-Jane Noone) for what was to be a Level 2 experience in the “Appalachian Mountains,” at Boreham Cavens. Meant to bring them together once again and claim back some semblance of normalcy. But soon after becoming trapped inside, find that on top of that, were in a territory of which no one knew exist. Juno’s way of having them discover and name it themselves. Ultimately joined by a strange group of creatures most comparable to a bat and forced to fight their way out in search of the only other exit. The first draft similar to Nosferatu with bigger eyes but deciding in the end it was too comedic looking.

The fact that you don’t fully see a creature until an hour in may be discerning for some. Although they were able to maintain those tense filled moments from the opening sequence. Sarah also frequently has visions of her daughter with a birthday cake since they were to celebrate it before her untimely death. But there’s an overall tone and anxiety created from the girls doing such a dangerous activity while in an enclosed space that wins you over. Rebecca is sure to lay out some guidelines before entering the cave like filing a flight plan, sticking to it and for everyone to not wander off. Okay, that doesn’t sound too bad. Juno was even sure to “check out” the location a week prior. Then she starts naming the symptoms one could endure while under; Dehydration, disorientation, claustrophobia, panic attacks, paranoia, hallucinations, visual and aural deterioration. No, thank you. But I commend these women for being as crazy and adventurous. Each Actress was able to portray the strong, fiery characters while you rooted for Sarah and hoped out of all of them, at least she would be able to escape.

Though as “friendly” as these women claimed to be, it seemed rare that they actually shared anything with the other. You also knew they were in trouble when Juno left the pamphlet in the car, why would she keep that secret knowing the dangers were limitless? The biggest one kept from Sarah being something hinted at from the very beginning. Questionable looks shared between her husband and Juno who claimed later that everyone had lost something in the crash. Maintaining her selfish demeanor yet claiming to not reach the surface unless having found Sarah. Which may have been from the guilt. But if she didn’t feel such when going behind her back to sleep with Paul, I wouldn’t see how it would matter now. And why didn’t she ever notice Juno’s necklace which stated “Love Each Day,” something her husband would say. Just seems like a pretty big piece of evidence laughing in your face. Each death scene was more emotional than the last as they dwindled down quite quickly. But it had to come down to Sarah and Juno. The deceit had to be built up and laid on thick so that the reveal and revenge would be even sweeter. Which is certainly was seeing as how the whole time you wanted to slap around the perky little homewrecker. As Beth states, she had nothing left to lose at that point and knew full well she wasn’t going to give up now.

There were numerous great shots captured within the caves considering the limited amount of light and angles they were able to capture. Though the Hospital has a clichéd shot of the lights dimming as Sarah ran down the hall, her gripping Beth as she was instantly brought into the present made it much more emotional for the transition. Once settling into the action, we catch sight of a wicked rope burn followed by Holly falling down as her bone protruded. Sarah soon finding herself bathing in a pool of blood when running off separately. These girls go through the lot of it. Certain slighted camera angles and a pan view of them while they freeze to listen to their surrounding being just some of the great ways they captured their environment. It was sure to keep it as a fast paced, adrenaline rushing adventure. Adorned with beautiful shades of blue, red and green that assisted in condensing the fear as they went further into the cave.

The difference in the endings being that we see her escape versus seeing her momentarily displaced, though still trapped. Meaning that in the UK version we get faked out. I kept seeing Marilyn Burns once she’s able to escape and takes off for the vehicle however. But how boring and forced the American one felt after everything they had been through. So I liked that instead we were left with that suspense of whether she would forever be lost within this demented world. Earlier in the film they do show her taking medication of which she does leave behind, which I’m sure was meant to assist in her delusions. But she was able to finally celebrate that birthday and leave a big enough tease to make you come back for a second dose.