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The Descent(2005)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: Neil Marshall

Starring:
Shauna Macdonald/Sarah
Natalie Mendoza/Juno
Alex Reid/Beth
Saskia Mulder/Rebecca
10 10
PLOT-CRUNCH
A group of daredevil ladies see their caving expedition in the US Appalachian Mountains go to hell when they find themselves trapped and hunted by blind yet ferocious underground night humanoids. Hold on to your Pop Corn, your crotch and your date! It gets freaking ugly!
THE LOWDOWN

Afraid of the dark? You will be.

NOTE: This is a review of the original UK Director's Cut, NOT the tinkered with US Cut that sports a different ending.

It’s been a while since a horror flick stomped my skull to ashes in its harshness, scared me silly and moved me on an emotional level all at the same time. Well champs, writer/director Neil Marshall has delivered just that. Talk about following up a tight movie (Dog Soldiers) with a superior one! Welcome to the Top Club Mr. Marshall!

Now we’ve all seen this before, claustrophobic setting and a handful of people fending off a horde of flesh eating beasties on the loose. But from where I was stabbing; THE DESCENT had to be the best horror thriller of its kind since ALIEN and ALIENS. It had me in its clawed grasp throughout, pummeled me senseless on every plane along the way and didn’t let me go till the destroying finale frame. That's what I call putting an audience member through the freaking ringer! To top it off; this flick was so much more than just monsters vs. humans at that! Every angle that came with this baby was simply put; a battle. A fight against personal loss, a fight against mother nature, a fight against shady friends, a fight against one’s fears and yes a fight against a slew of humanoid, bat like creatures who crave Happy Meals of human flesh. The Pizza was all dressed and then some!

Huge props to Neil Marshall for handling all of the aforementioned elements in a mature, courageous, hardcore and mucho efficient manner. The drama at hand was utterly poignant, the often emotionally charged plot turns were visceral to say the least while the horror on display was heavy handed in its quota of brutality and tension. No punches were pulled here; this was a vibrant, uncompromising and savage film and last I checked that's what good horror films should be all about. It surely added to the experience that the cast was solely comprised of women. And I don't mean the usual big breasted trinkets that we love so much in our genre films; I'm yapping real women here; strong, smart and in some instances quite devious. How refreshing to see the fairer sex portrayed in such a grounded, un-exploitive and realistic light. I didn't even need a tit shot! Who need them when you're dealing with "real" people! That coupled with the utterly realistic performances from the female cast, gave the semi familiar whole that extra injection of potent freshness, hence upping the chokehold that was being applied on my senses.

Yup, I won on all counts with this film with the first half of the picture was all about the women against the cave. Marshall put me right there with them and perfectly captured the thrill, utter fear and claustrophobic nature of such an excursion. Then second half of this bad girl kicked in with creatures peering in the shadows, sadistic/brutal/messy attacks, seat jumping boo scares, intense mano et beasto get downs, powerful, suspense filled bits and a strong dose of "human" evil at that. It was all there in Spades man! IN FREAKING SPADES! And did you guys catch all the swell references/inspirations from other films? Lets see, we get the the aerial shots from The Shining, the creature sound design from Mimic, the monsters from Creep (Or was it evil Gollum?), the blood bath from Carrie, the claustrophobia of Alien and the opening from Dead Calm. I know some will see these as rip-offs; I on the end of the slit throat saw the nods as sturdy ad-ons to one’s own original eye gouging jamboree.

Stack on top of all that genre quality; energetic directing, true scares, an incredibly moving score, a talented manner of milking the cave surroundings, a sly use of dream sequences and an ending that toyed with my knowledge of known conventions to rip my heart out and you get a Grade F film. "F" for "Funfuckingfuriouslytighttastic". Any negatives? Well granted two of the female characters were underdeveloped and I had a hard time pin-pointing who they were, especially when in the cave; but to be to be frank (or Arnold); I didn’t hold it against the film where the fantastic whole more than made up for that. Don't run...sprint… to catch THE DESCENT…a new horror classic.

GORE
This ride didn’t mince meat; we get a bone sticking out though flesh, torn out throats, gut munching, eyeball gouging, head stabbing, all kinds of other types of stabbings, nasty bites and an entire lake of blood. Gory and harsh…just like a good horror film should be.
ACTING
Shauna Macdonald (Sarah) hit all of the right emotional notes to deliver a credible and gripping show. Natalie Mendoza (Juno) avoided the usual pitfalls that her type of character usually comes with and put out a layered performance. Nora Jane Noone (Holly) was mucho capable as the more butch of the group. Alex Reid (Beth) and Saskia Mulder (Rebecca) were both convincing in their roles.
T & A
I swear one of the monsters was female (with hair) and we saw her tits real fast…was I tripping?
DIRECTING
Neil Marshall was on top of his game’s game with awe inspiring imagery, a talented execution of his suspense, seat jumping boo scares, bleak mood galore and the steady driving of a constant emotional undercurrent that gave the film so much more impact. Perfect!
SOUNDTRACK
The score by David Julyan was exceptional, it went from orchestral moving, to schizophrenically frightening to sounding like the score from the The Thing (love that bass). It supported and contributed to the film like a champ!
BOTTOM LINE
I’m going to go out on a severed limb here and talk out of what might be my proverbial ass; but in my opinion; Neil Marshall has entered the horror author field with this film. He took his place alongside Carpenter, Craven, Cronenberg and all. It’s been a while since we’ve had a solid addition to that list! The Descent was a brilliantly structured and executed piece of horror cinema. It was well written, layered, expertly acted, suspenseful as hell, directed with flair, emotionally resonant and f*cking gory/violent as well! I have absolutely nothing bad to say about this diamond in the rough…all I will say is see it, see it and SEE IT! THE DESCENT is the movie I’ve been waiting for all year…THANK YOU!
BULL'S EYE
The look of the creatures was kept hush-hush from the cast until the first scene where they see them was shot.

Lions Gate owns The Descent for domestic distribution; what are they waiting for to put it out? The second coming of Kim Novack?

The film was shot in seven weeks.

VISIT THE DESCENT WEBSITE HERE