The Descent

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CSYg7Z1KS_I (honestly though, the trailer makes it seem more boring than it really is)

Synopsis: A handful of girl friends go spelunking together. Rather than be smart and take a guide book into a cave no one else has ever been in, Juno, the appointed leader, decides to risk all of their lives and go on an adventure without telling them. Once a rock slide forces them to find another way out, they find creepy monsters and a pool of blood.

Year Released: 2005

Director/Writer: Neil Marshall

Rating: Passable (but the ending is a Nope)

Horror Ratings png

Movie Pitch:

Director: “I think it’s time for a movie about cave monsters.”

Random dude: “you mean like bats?”

Director: “No, more confusing.”

Favorite Death: Most of the deaths in this movie were the same. The girls were either eaten by cave monsters, or injured while climbing. I guess if I had to pick a favorite, I’d pick Beth’s. After Sarah magically makes a torch in the corpse covered portion of the cave, she finds Beth who had previously been accidentally attacked by Juno. She’s laying there, drenched in blood and quivering. Sarah goes up to her and her last words are essentially “Hey Sarah, Juno and your husband were having an affair this whole time, sorry.” Then, because Beth is immobile and dying, Sarah smashes her head with a rock. I just think it’s funny because it seems like they couldn’t figure out where to include the fact that Juno was cheating with Sarah’s husband so they did it then.

Funniest Part: There are a few parts in this movie that made me laugh. They’re all pretty small things, so I’ll just list them:

  1. There’s this part where two of the girls are hiding in plain sight from one of the monsters and a watch goes off. The monster, having just walked away, suddenly turns to face the sound of the watch and goes over to sniff it. The second the monster turned around, I wanted to turn that frame into a gif with the text “bitch what?” And as a matter of fact, I did.2vz9y1
  2. There’s another part where a couple of the girls are using giant green glow sticks to light their way. First of all, the person in charge of lighting this movie should be reprimanded. At one point, you’re watching one of the girls walk up to the camera, and rather than the glow sticks illuminating her face, the light to her side does, reminding the audience that either the glow sticks are not working or aren’t as bright as the mysterious green light coming from the cave. Secondly, the chick carrying the glow sticks uses them to fend off one of the cave monsters…and it works.

What they did right: I will say that the monsters were pretty creepy, they weren’t very creative and left me mostly confused, but they were the fast kind of monster that rips into your neck without thinking twice. The acting wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever seen and the transition Sarah made during the course of the movie made sense and was believable. Finally, I appreciate the fact that all characters were attacked and injured equally. There wasn’t any special treatment applied to the primary characters, and while the final girls were who you might have expected, I wasn’t sure who was going to survive until the last two secondary characters were torn to shreds.

Special effects and lighting: Very few of the special effects were CGI and they were reminiscent of those classic 80’s horror movies. That made me extremely happy, so they get some creative points there. Close ups of pickaxes, excessive spurts of blood, and one part where, while covered in slippery blood, Sarah stabs a monster that’s attacking her directly in the eye with a mysterious bone.

mv5bnjg5ywi4odqtnziyoc00otg0ltlly2itywu3ytg0mdjjmgyzxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynjq4ode4mzq-_v1_Lighting was really interesting. I think I could go as far as to use the word impressive. The director kept very closely to the cave aesthetic and used the girls’ head lamps, flares, and cameras to illuminate the dark  cave. It was believable (save the glow stick situation) and set the tone with different colors. Not bad.

What I thought would happen: I assumed Sarah would survive on her own after the movie in this grand exit of self-fulfillment after her family is killed. However, I didn’t expect a transition throughout her time in the cave and I definitley didn’t see it getting so gross and action packed. It’s about as predictable as your typical Final Girl movie.

mv5bymizmjjlotityzdhzc00mwm5ltljnjctyzg4otmxzgu2mtjhxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynjq4ode4mzq-_v1_Also, I didn’t necessarily think this would happen, but I wish it had and this won’t fit anywhere else. Holly, the character that looks like the lead singer of Green Day, has a camera throughout this movie. I think this would have been far more terrifying if it was a found footage movie rather than a movie with set up shots and strange red and green lighting. Holly even dies at one point, so that would have been way more suspenseful. We see her recording everything, but unfortunately, that subplot is destroyed when she dies and no one thinks to take the camera from her. I would have liked to see someone years later finding the camera and watching this movie in a deep dark cave with monsters prowling all around them. I think that would have been more suspenseful and would have allowed the production team to get away with less expensive special effects.

Thoughts from Interviews: Rather than a selection of interviews, there exists and entire 4 part series about how the movie was made. I live for this kind of thing, so I’ll do my best to summarize it.

  1. The biggest thing I got from this was that these girls really put a lot into their characters. They developed backstories and truly embraced everything about their roles.
  2. An interesting tidbit from the actress that played Juno was that she mentioned “For me, as an Asian actor, one of the key things is that it wasn’t written as an Asian character. It was an opportunity for me to play a really well thought out character which is very full. And that, for any actor is amazing. You don’t come across those sorts of characters very often.” I found this particularly interesting because of the polarized view she had about Asian characters not typically being written as full-bodied and interesting.
  3. After seeing the set, it’s amazing to me how real it all was. They built the cave they were in out of actual pieces and I only saw a green screen once while watching this.
  4. The director explained that the monsters are cave people who never left the cave. I don’t like this theory at all. Not because of the evolutionary thing, but because if they had evolved, why are they all able-bodied 30 year olds?

mv5bnjgznwexy2qtnmm1ni00ytu1ltgzngqtyjjinmeymdc1ytqzxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymjuyndk2odc-_v1_Trivia: A lot of the trivia has to do with what I learned from the behind the scenes documentary. Like how the Crawlers, as the monsters are known, were loosely based on Nosferatu the creepy vampire, and that the cave was not real and actually an awesome set. But there are a few gems I’d like to share with you:

  1. According to the audio commentary on the special edition DVD, there was an exact replica made of the actress who played Holly and after the movie was finished, she got to keep the head of the doll. Once, she put it in her mother’s freezer as a joke.
  2. Every actress in the group was from a different country.
  3. Prior to the release of the sequel, it was speculated among fans that the crawlers may have been a figment of Sarah’s imagination, and that she actually killed all her friends as she gradually went insane. Director Neil Marshall acknowledged this theory and revealed that he removed a shot that would have suggested the crawlers were not real.
  4. Body count for crawlers: nine, including a child. (Which I found very interesting, because, before I saw them all in broad daylight I assumed they all looked the same and were around the same age).

Well, here we are, back into the swing of things. This movie was one I would actually recommend as a stereotypical bad horror movie. It had some ups, a lot of downs, and some extremely strange monsters. It was linear, made sense, and I don’t believe there were any real plot holes. It’s a good movie. I wouldn’t call it amazing, but it was good.

mv5bmmjmnmuxmtqtngmwyi00ymu3lweyowutzdyyndlmmwyzztljxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynjq4ode4mzq-_v1_

I’m not exactly sure where this movie takes place. Every girl has an accent and, according to the trivia, are from different countries. I saw somewhere on the trivia page that claims this cave is in North Carolina, but I don’t remember hearing in the movie where it’s supposed to be.

Sarah is our main character. We know her name right off the bat, but the other girls are introduced as their friends shout their names repetitively throughout the caves. Anyway, Sarah is a woman with friends and a family. She’s an adrenaline junkie that likes to be outdoors and go on adventures. One day she’s driving around with her little girl and husband when suddenly, they hit an oncoming car with strange metal pipes rolling around in the back seat. The pipes shoot right through Sarah’s husband’s head and, I assume, her daughter’s as well. I think this might be a reference to a video online of the same thing happening but for real to a guy in a car. I’ve not seen this video but in many a 50/50* YouTube reaction video, I’ve heard tales.

mv5bnmzlzdi1nzitogflzi00yzcylthintmtnjaxytblodbmmwe1xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynjq4ode4mzq-_v1_So Sarah is naturally devastated by the loss of her family and decides to get away for a bit. Her friends then encourage her to go spelunking (or cave diving). Her friend Juno heads up the exploration for some reason, and there are I think 4 other girls not including Juno and Sarah.

Before the girls enter the cave though, we see Juno place a guide book of the cave in her car and leave without it. This later becomes important when she reveals that all she wanted to do was take her friends on an adventure to a cave no one had ever been in before. Their only exit is blocked off, everyone gets mad a Juno, and the Goonies part of the adventure begins.

mv5bzdgwmtayzjmtmtg3mc00mtczltk5ywetnji5odkzm2jhymq0xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynjq4ode4mzq-_v1_After some suspenseful climbing scenes and a few faces are muddied, the girls discover they are not alone in this cave system. There are these strange monsters that appear and attack some of the victims. Now, these monsters are something else. In the film, there’s a scene where Juno and a few others are discussing what they might be. We know they’re blind and live in a cave, so we associate them with bats. That’s even a line in the film. However, there’s a scene that makes me question everything. Sarah is mulling around the cave after she’s hit her head or something. So she has blood on her face and suddenly a camera. I think this was supposed to be the camera Holly had, but who knows. She uses the night vision on the camera to look around. Right in front of her, Holly’s body is dropped from the ceiling and the Crawlers eat her. Now, Sarah is being completely quiet and looking through the camera to see these monsters eat her friend. At one point she whimpers a bit and the monster turns to look at her.

mv5bnju4zmfmzdityzizos00zgrklwexztctmtq5odqxzgriyjexxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymjuyndk2odc-_v1_

Now, if these monsters are actually like bats and have adapted over time to live in these caves, wouldn’t they have an innate sense of where someone is? Couldn’t they hear them breathing or smell them? Another time, a monster is standing right in front of two of the girls, but can’t smell them, and finally, there’s a part where Sarah is behind a Crawler with a weaponized bone, and it turns around even though she had been completely silent. I’m a bit confused as to what their powers actually are.

That’s not the only thing that bugs me about these monsters though. At one point, the girls claim that they found gear that wasn’t theirs in the cave. This leads me to believe that maybe the creatures are other cave divers from years past that had evolved into these monsters. However, during the “making of” documentary I watched, the director stated that these monsters are cave people that evolved into these monsters. I don’t know what the purpose of mentioning other climbing gear was if this was what the monsters were supposed to be.

Okay, moving on. Essentially all of the girls die except for Juno and Sarah, but because Beth told Sarah that Juno and Sarah’s husband were having an affair, Sarah had a vendetta against Juno (goodness, that sounds like so much more drama than this movie lended this subplot). In the end, I thought maybe Sarah and Juno would be in the throes of an attack with the Crawlers and Sarah would escape without saving Juno. But in realty, Sarah injured Juno before she escaped and was eaten by the monsters. Clever and expected, but well done nonetheless.

descent-ending-3The ending to this movie was so bad it got it’s own rating. So Sarah escapes the cave through this tiny hole in the ground. It’s big and dramatic and all of that. Even though the cave painting the girls found as they explored clearly shows the two entrances on polar opposite sides of the cave, Sarah still manages to get to a car and drive off. Somehow she finds the car in under 5 minutes and the keys are still inside. She drives off and we later see her parked on the side of the road simply taking some breaths and calming herself down. I thought, with the awkward timing of this scene, one of those Crawlers was going to jump scare her at the window…but no…it was so much worse.

As Sarah does her best to calm down, the camera quickly pans over to the passenger seat, and there, with blood for some reason trickling from her eyes, is Juno.

There’s a lot to unpack here, but I think the best explanation was something I picked up on while browsing the trivia on IMDB; the whole escape was a mirage and didn’t really happen. I don’t think this is actually what happened, I think it’s a rumor started by the production team after they realized the glorious ending they had hoped for fell flat. It truly makes no sense. Why are Juno’s eyes bleeding? How did she get into the passenger seat? Is she a ghost that’s now going to haunt Sarah forever? Is she even dead at all and just followed Sarah out of the cave?

There’s a sequel to this movie that might illuminate some of the issues I have with this film, so I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see what happens for now. Overall I liked this movie. It mostly made sense, the actors took it really seriously and that showed, and it was well done.


*50/50 is a subreddit on reddit.com that is essentially a list of links with titles like “dog licking a cat clean/maggots eating a dogs face.” The idea is to click on the link and take the risk of seeing either one. Some videos are of murders, hangings, corpses, etc. so it can get really dark.


Last Week’s Review: Creep 2 (positive-ish)

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