Starring: Shauna MacDonald, Natalie Mendoza, Alex Reid￼
Director: Neil Marshall
Running Time: 99 mins
The Descent is a British film about six friends who find themselves trapped in a terrifying cavern on a caving expedition gone horribly wrong.
I’ve repeatedly confessed that I just don’t like modern horror movies. They’ve never grabbed me, and they very rarely manage to do their main job, which is to be scary. However, The Descent is a brilliant exception to the rule. With thrills and spills throughout, this film is hugely intense, exciting, well-directed, and most importantly, really scary.
I’ll start on that note, because finding a properly scary horror is just so hard, so to see an indie movie, a British one no less, really work well in delivering big scares, was fantastic. Although the film takes about 20 minutes to get going, once we get into the claustrophobic caves, everything becomes genuinely frightening.
Even in the earlier stages, there’s such a palpable tension and sense of danger to every scene that I was both on the edge of my seat and covering my eyes, which then got me completely hooked on this film right until the end.
Halfway through, there’s a twist in the tale, which I won’t spoil, but as something new is introduced to the story, I wasn’t too sure about how it would go down. However, that new introduction, whilst a little silly and far-fetched in my opinion, was brilliantly terrifying, and made everything for the following half an hour massively intense and scary until the end.
However, the main reason that this is such a scary and intense film is because of Neil Marshall’s brilliant directing. In such a confined and dark space, Marshall manages to make an enjoyable and fast-paced film thanks to the countless scenes full of tension and fear. Survival thrillers are notoriously difficult to do and keep fresh over the course of a feature-length film, but The Descent proves that with some great directing, it’s possible to make a spectacularly exciting movie.
This isn’t a perfect movie, however, and I did have some flaws. Most notably was the first act, where we get a bit of backstory into one of the main characters about a traumatic accident a year before the events of this film. As always, this part is a little slow, and it doesn’t compare one bit to the rest of the film in terms of good filmmaking and storytelling, but my biggest issue with it was that the emotional impact that they were going for with this backstory felt completely irrelevant.
Throughout the movie, there was no point where I thought back to that opening act and felt it added something to the drama in the cave, which means that that was 20 minutes effectively wasted. Another issue with the film was in its story. Whilst it was absolutely thrilling and fantastically scary, that came through the directing more than anything else, and such plot choices as that central twist took a little of the realism and true peril away for me.
Overall, however, I loved The Descent. Despite a few missteps along the way, I was hooked on the thrilling and frightening adventure that unfolded here, largely due to Neil Marshall’s amazingly intense directing, so that’s why I’m giving this a 7.9.