The Descent

Year 2005

Shauna Macdonald   as   Sarah
Natalie Mendoza as Juno
Alex Reid as Beth
Saskia Mulder as Rebecca
MyAnna Buring as Sam
Nora-Jane Noone as Holly
Director - Neil Marshall  
Screenwriter - Neil Marshall

Six people you don't care about, and can barely understand, are killed off while caving. That about sums up the movie The Descent. If it wasn't for the great cinematography within the cave, this movie would have been rated as being Under a Rock. (It kind of fits, doesn't it?)

Now I'm a fan of subterranean terrors. I like H.P. Lovecraft, who thrives on the setting. There's the whole Shaver mystery thing which I found intriguing (Dero and Tero races living below us). I even wanted to write a book about subterranean dwellers. The topper, for me, is that Brad Steiger gave me the book The Under People to read and said that Eric Norman was one of his pen-names. I had high hopes for this movie and really wanted to like it.

Instead, we're treated to six women who have no chemistry with each other. If there are no male characters, why is this a guy movie? Answer: It isn't. It could have been if the writer was semi-literate or if there was so cohesion to the scenes or if there was a build up of suspense. None of this happens.

Bad English for a professional production is inexcusable. It's wince inducing. Because I've blotted them from my memory, I cannot remember specific examples from the movie. I can remember a line from Neil Marshall during an interview where he refers to things as being "more dark". Didn't he mean "darker"? This sort of sloppiness isn't reserved for the interview, it permeats the movie.

The movie never refers to spelunking. It's only called "caving" which I guess is acceptable. But people who investigate caves are proud to call themselves "spelunkers" and not "cavers" They get pleasure from it the same way a person who plays a flute likes to be known as a flautist and not a flutist.

The sound is atrocious. Not only because most of the women speak with some sort of British Isles accent, but because they whisper a lot and they sound like they've got marbles in their mouth. Think of a female Sterling Sharpe whispering with an Irish accent. Now try and imagining making sense of what she's saying.

Who are these women in the film? Good luck telling most of them apart. There's very little back story except maybe a case of adultery to share. The women are not sympathetic characters and, except for Juno (Mendoza), none of them appears particularly "ept" at anything. For some reason, they also grunt to the point of screaming during any strenous task but not when they're in pain. Weird.

The horror that they come across is incredible, as in not believable. I hope that I'm not spoiling anything when I mention that the girls face a living enemy which is kind of like a devolved Eegah. Is the enemy blind? Sometimes. In a sparring match, the enemy seems to be able to detect when to lunge and when to parry. Can it hear? Not always. More than one scene had a girl either breathing hard or whimpering inches away from the enemy and the enemy didn't hear them. Can the enemy feel? Once in a while. The enemy crawls over girls and doesn't notice that they don't feel like rocks. They don't feel fire two inches away from them either.

There's no suspense in this movie, either. It's a series of scares relying on surprise jumping. If a scene is devoid of the enemy, you can count a sudden movement from the previously not present enemy.

In the chronology of the movie, after the catty girls' night before the trip into the cave and just before the unnecessary cave-in, the movie is quite interesting. The camera work is great and you get the feeling of claustrophobia and the unpleasant conditions that must greet real spelunkers. Then things get all Journey to the Center of the Earth combined with all of the dripping water in Alien. Ludicrous.

I've read some comments saying that The Descent is open to interpretation. If these interpretations were suggested as ways of improving the movie, they don't. I've already seen The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and the lesser ShutterIsland. If you're going to watch this movie, watch it as it really is - a well produced, poorly written and directed, B-movie worthy of a second feature Drive-In showing.

No nudity, but there's blasphemy and profanity. Chick flick potential is low despite not having a male in a lead role because it's a dumb movie and unlikely to hold anyone's interest. A girl in her early twenties told me that she had seen the movie years ago and it was a waste of time. If you can't interest a teenage girl in a movie starring six women, then how good is the movie? Not very.

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