The Descent (2005) movie poster

(2005) dir. Neil Marshall
viewed: 12/23/06

Though it flashed in and out of theaters locally without much fanfare, there was somewhat of good word-of-mouth about it as being above average for a horror film.  Written and directed by Neil Marshall, whose 2002 Dog Soldiers also developed a reasonable buzz as well, though I hadn’t heard anything about it til it hit DVD.  Well, luckily, in for this film, I hadn’t even heard that much about the storyline either.

One of the interesting aspects of this film is that it follows an entirely female group of adventurers as they head deep into the Appalachian Mountains for a cave-diving adventure that turns out to be more adventurous than they had anticipated.  That’s right, this is spelunking horror.  The all-female cast could be easily brushed off as a purification of the “female in danger” that has been the bread-and-butter of the horror genre for years.  Of course, none of these women are your typical shrinking or “shrieking” violets, but rather a bunch of tough, experienced modern women.  So, somewhere, there is a subtext perhaps, and possibly some feminist angle to take.

The creatures, the blind-troglodyte human-bat things that can crawl up walls and disembowel with their fangs, are almost all men.  Oh yeah, did I mention that?  The cave turns out to be home to yet another undiscovered species of creature.  This one totally humanoid in form, but vicious and bloodthirsty to the max.  While we do see one female creature, there may be some commentary in the male vs. female here.  And certainly, a very explicit “re-birth” scene is depicted toward the end, a very female image, which may be intended to signify something.

The film is largely well-made, despite a few cheap scares (surprise scares) and an occasionally overactive camera and editor.  It’s paced well and flows throughout, keeping the action moving, operating along conventional lines far more successfully than most of the genre.  Really, it’s a very decent effort.

See, there, I said it: The Descent is decent.