Descent, The

19th October 2005
Movie Poster reviewer: Chris
directed by: Neil Marshall
written by: Neil Marshall
starring: MyAnna Buring, Craig Conway, Natalie Jackson Mendoza, Molly Kayll
genre: Adventure, Horror, Thriller
released: 8th July 2005

Mainstream horror has become horribly stagnant over the past few years with original ideas few and far between. There have been a wealth of high-profile remakes of Japanese horrors (The Ring, Dark Water, The Grudge) or remakes of classics, ranging from well done (Dawn of the Dead) to poor (House of Wax). Those that donít fall into those categories have tended to be just plain awful (Hide and Seek, Boogeyman). Luckily, this year is slightly different. Not only does it see the return of George A. Romero but it has already seen one of the best horror movies in recent years. The Descent is bloody brilliant.

The key to its success is a beautifully simple and atmospheric concept; a group of 6 women get lost when pot-holing. The movie gets off to a bang as director sets up the dynamics of the group simply and effectively, whilst immediately giving at least one scare to his audience. Once the women finally descend into the subterranean cavities the movie becomes unrelenting. Before the gore and screams begin, director Neil Marshall uses the darkness brilliantly. The audience is sucked as the women struggle for space in the claustrophobic setting, as well as struggling with the stale air. The audience is kept in the dark along with the 6 women; the only light offered being the restricted view of a torch, the eerie green of glowsticks, the temporary red of a flare or the fuzzy screen of a camcorder. When the audience (like the women) is sat in total darkness the scrapping of helmets and an effective score keep them on the edge of their seats. All this before any real blood is spilt.

When the women are finally attacked, the movie just gets better. The atmosphere has sucked in the audience so perfectly that you find yourself holding your breath when the women do, even crouching slightly when headroom becomes severely limited. This is truly terrifying and bloody horror.

One of the most impressive aspects though is the changing character and group dynamics. Ballsy leader Juno (Natalie Mendoza) becomes more and more reckless, whilst Sarahís (Shauna Macdonald) mentality continually changes. This is all played out effectively by the cast and never over-done by Marshall, the balance feels absolutely perfect. Throw in a truly terrific ending and there is little, if anything to fault about the movie.

The Descent is one of the best horror movies of recent years. Marshall has a clear understanding of what makes the genre so effective and gets everything right here. If you love horrors it would be a shame to miss out on this.