Premise: A group of female friends become trapped while exploring a cave and discover a clan of man-eating creatures living underground.
What Works: The Descent has many very effective moments that play with darkness and claustrophobia. There are a number of great jump scares combined with some very visceral moments that give the film some bite, and the entire film has a great atmosphere of dread. By contrast, there are some nice moments early on in the film that are humorous and manage to provide some dearly needed characterization. The film does a nice job with some of its female characters, making them neither feminized men nor idiotic shrieking victims.
What Doesn’t: The picture starts with the accidental death of Sarah’s (Shauna Macdonald) family after a rafting trip with Juno (Natalie Jackson Mendoza) and Beth (Alex Reid). While this sets up some character depth, it does not contribute to the film and the struggle in the cave does not resolve Sarah’s grief or her relationships with Juno and Beth. When the film resumes after the accident, the story introduces five more characters who apparently are only there as fodder for the creatures in the cave. Throughout the film there are numerous chase and fight sequences, and although they are filmed with appropriately nasty gore effects, the scenes are very difficult to understand because of poor editing and a lack of light.
Bottom Line: The Descent is an interesting and scary film, but it is ultimately wounded by too many characters and poor storytelling decisions. Had the film stayed with just the three lead female characters and been about the struggle to survive in the cave, it might have been a more successful film. Gore hounds and monster aficionados will want to check it out.
Episode: #105 (August 6, 2006)