Publicity Stills of "The Descent"
(Courtesy from Festive Films)

Genre: Thriller
Director: Neil Marshall
Starring: Shauna Macdonald, Natalie Mendoza ("Moulin Rouge"), Alex Reid, Saskia Mulder ("The Beach"), Nora Jane Noone ("The Magdalene Sisters"), MyAnna Buring
RunTime: 1 hr 39 mins
Released By: Shaw & Festive Films
Rating: M18 (Violence & Gore)
Official Website: http://www.festivefilms.com/thedescent

Opening Day: 8 December 2005


"The Descent" follows an all-female cast who play extreme sports enthusiats going on their annual vacation trip. During this daredevil caving holiday, the six girls are trapped underground when an unexpected rock-fall blocks their exit. Searching the maze of tunnels for a way out, they find themselves hunted by a race of fearless, hungry predators, once humanoid but now monstrously adapted to live in the dark.

Movie Review:

It’s like déjà vu all over again. Wasn’t there a horror movie about cave explorers encountering monsters deep inside a cave recently?

That movie, “The Cave” and this movie “The Descent” shared similar premises that would make one wonder if that is the new copying trend in horror movie. But from those who had seen both “The Cave” and “The Descent”, it seems that “The Descent” a UK production helmed by Neil Marshall (director of Dog Soldiers) is better woven in terms of storytelling and scare factors.

“The Descent” tells the tale of a group of female extreme sports enthusiasts on a cave-exploring trip. It all goes horribly wrong when they chose the wrong path and soon fall into the path of creepy cave dwellers on the prowl.

For the first half of the movie, it seems like an enticing advertisement for a caving adventure. The lush landscape of country, repelling down the cave with a mini waterfall by the side and the wriggling through tiny rock tunnels makes one feel like packing the bag and signing up with the nearest caving adventure group.

Then comes the second half of the movie, filled with tense moments and carnage makes you think otherwise. As the movie delves further and further into the caves, the maiming events start occurring in a frenzy until it is literally a bloodbath inside the deep caves.

The psychological factor in this film brings fear to whole new level. Its unbearable claustrophobia is amazingly realized at times and the sense of having nowhere to escape envelops these 6 explorers. The idea that they are trapped in a cave that is still unknown to the rest of the world outside also means that would not be any rescue team coming for them amplifies the instinctive urge for their own survival.

The two most memorable ladies in this film are the mentally fragile Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) who is still overcoming a recent family tragedy and the adrenaline junkie Juno (Natalie Medoza) who has got a thing or two to hide. Natalie bears a resemblance to Lucy Liu and possesses the fierce determination while fighting off the creepy dwellers is the perfect reminder of the Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley character in the “Alien” Franchise. Shauna also did a convincing job as the poor Sarah who just survived a tragedy and is now trapped in forsaken cave with creepy predators hunting her and her friends, easily drawing out the compassion from the audiences, creating a certain hope that she will be able to survive this ordeal.

Overall the essence of being in a cave was well captured in this film. The use of glow stick and flares to illuminate the cave was a wonderful change from the usual lightings we see from other studios. “The Descent” applied effective lighting techniques that heightened the tension of what lies beyond the darkness of the caves. One of the best uses of the night vision function of a video camera in a movie provided this film with one of its biggest shock. Inventive angles were also used to capture the claustrophobic setting in a cave (Such as the crawling tiny tunnels sequences).

But like all human made films, flaws will still exist. One of the few flaws would be the poorly animated computer generated images (CGI). It is not that there is a lot of CGI effects used in this film but After “Batman Begins”, the poorly animated bats were more embarrassingly funny than scary. And then there is the defect of having 2 characters too many. The number of explorers could have been trimmed to 4 and the pacing would have picked up faster. But then again, these are minor complaints that will not really affect the viewing of this show.

“The Descent” is a particularly atmospheric horror film that would be more effective if it was played out in a very dark theater with fantastic surround sounds. I had never seen Neil Marshall’s “Dog Soldiers” before but after watching The Descent, I would like to find a copy of his previous work as soon as possible and see if he is the new director to watch out for.

Movie Rating:

(“The Descent” into a cave filled with great abundances of gore, brilliantly claustrophobic cinematography and intensive psychological drama)

Review by Richard Lim Jr



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