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124 of 135 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 4, 2006
You've got a pretty tight group of girlfriends. You're a pretty tough girl yourself. You do a lot of adventurous stuff that usually includes mostly just your girlfriends.

After a year's hiatus due to a terrible family tragedy, you decide it's time to hook up with your girls and shake the bad memories on a spelunking outing.

You head to a remote area of the Appalachian Mountains to some charted caves recommended by a spelunking guide, according to one of your group members. You embark with 6 friends into the caves from the highpoint in the mountain...down...down...down through the bowels of the mountain in search of an exit at a lower point.

Then two of a plethora of bad things happen. A tunnel that you came through is sealed off leaving you only one way to go...down. And your partner reveals the reality that a guide didn't recommend the caves at all; she thought it would make the excursion more adventurous in unexplored caves. There is no charted way out.

Think that's a problem? How about shining your light down the next tunnel where you see an eerie human-ish looking figure crouched in the dark peering back at you?

The Descent has chills. There's high suspense. It goes without saying that there are good old fashioned jump-out-of-the-dark scares (they are in a cave!). No special effects needed here to generate excitement. The creatures are well designed and scary.

The story flows very well. The acting is better than the average Horror flick. And Director Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers) keeps a better than average flow of twists and turns coming.

Do indeed see it if you're into the genre. The Descent is one of the movies on my Amazon Listmania List, "15 Flicks Guaranteed To Leave A Permanent Impression".

Note: The US theatrical version had a lame ending compared to the original UK version. The US DVD release gives you the option of which ending you'd prefer to view. Go with the original.
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57 of 62 people found the following review helpful
I'm not typically accustomed to going "gaga" over horror films. It's not that I don't like them, I love them--but truth be told, it's hard to find genuinely good ones. I'm entertained by lots of the gory, splatter films that have recently dominated the box office. Usually, however, it's a matter of accepting the limitations within these films and getting whatever enjoyment you can out of the scenarios. It's been a very long time since I thought of a current horror movie as a 5 star event, so nothing could have surprised me more than "The Descent."

The preliminary setup is a good one. Our heroines begin to explore some unknown, uncharted cave systems and quickly become trapped. Now our ladies must use their resourcefulness and intelligence to try to get out. The dynamics start to play out between the women--good and bad--and a real fear for survival starts to set in. We are squarely in a man versus nature psychological thriller atmosphere. It recalls for me "Open Water"--a film whose horror is about helplessness and being stranded, not about sharks.

But just as soon as I was sure where I was headed, the rug was pulled out. The last third becomes a monstrously bloody battle for survival. It is so well choreographed, I was sucked in wholeheartedly. And far from being victims--our heroines exhibit intelligence, brutality, resilience, loyalty and a real survival instinct. We've got some real female empowerment going on! For pure horror, this film goes out with a real bang.

I was completely blindsided by this one. There's a good screenplay, a credible backstory, appealing actresses, great cinematography and nice effects.

"The Descent" may not be the "best" movie I see this year--but as a pure adrenaline rush, I promise you it will be one of my favorites. KGHarris, 12/06.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on December 12, 2006
Neil Marshall's "The Descent" completely lives up to the hype! It is one of the bloodiest horror films to ever play on the big screen for sure. It is the definition of claustrophobic & it is truly one of the most jump out of your seat scariest big screen horror flicks since Ridley Scott's "ALIEN". Just more proof that the great horror films & the great horror film Directors are comeing from the world of independent films. Even though the concept isn't so fresh it seems that everything else about it is. The cave creatures are brilliantly gruesome & realistic(great make up/efx). Even with all the mostly dry & un-original remakes out there,the last 8-9 years has still produced some of the best horror films ever & "The Descent" is truly the final seal of approval that we horror movie fans will look back at the turn of the century as a great era in horror movie history let alone movie history in general. If I'm Alive 20 years from now I will be so glad to say I saw this one in the theatre. A masterpiece!

***UPDATE*** Coming from someone who saw the American theatre ending,IMO the original UK ending that comes with the widescreen unrated original cut is excellent & just as good if not better than the shortened American theatre version.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on April 10, 2007
So this was a rather interesting film. I'd say that it was probably one of the most enjoyable films that I've seen in recent weeks. It provided an interesting location, mind-bending ending, and a unique cast of all females that react reasonably in the face of danger. What else really made the grade for this film?

Plot: Ok, so it's not the most original plot I've ever heard of. A bunch of girls go caving, and lurking in the darkness is an evolved human, evolved to live perfectly in the dark. Cavemen gone crazy more-or-less. Still, the plot might lack some ingenuity, but they brought it out in a way that seems to master this form of the story. I've seen other cave movies before, but they weren't put together like this one was. In fact, they did a good job of explaining almost every aspect of the adventure in a true, realistic manner. You felt like the character had no choice and made responsible efforts in their quest to survive. The ending is somewhat of a give and take piece, it lets your imagination run for a bit, as it's more symbolic rather than direct, so you'll have to take away your own thoughts of the film, but I think that this makes it leave a lasting impression.

Atmosphere: So this was another thing that I enjoyed. This movie boasts some excellent camera work. If you're at all claustrophobic, this movie will probably scare the h"ll out of you. They did a great job using the darkness and lighting the scenes effectively and mysteriously. They also used red flares, and green glow sticks in specific sequences, which gave a nice stylized look to the overall film.

Effects: There was quite a bit of gore in the film...some of it better than others. I noticed a few scenes where the gore was just amateurish, and yet there were many scenes where it was really well done. A production schedule glitch? I don't know, but I would've loved to see the whole thing with a mastering of these effects. I think though that what they do provide over-rides the less-than incredible gore, and I think most gore fans will be pleased with the quality of the effects.

Acting: There's a lot of new faces, at least new as in the sense of the American market. I've not heard of these British actresses before. They did a most excellent job, and really lost control on this production. It seems like they knew exactly how to react and the director did a great job of bringing out the emotion of the scene. It was a most realistic and reasonable ride throughout the film. I think that the females were "friends" off-set, because it really shows through in the film.

This is a definite recommendation, and a film that I will add to my collection in the near future. I think that it was interesting, fun, creative, and it really keeps you going from beginning to end. It's got a good amount of suspense, tension and gore. In my opinion, it should make any horror film fan happy.
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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on December 22, 2006
When walking into the theater Friday night I had high expectations. This film has been hyped up by critics of all people as one of the scariest films in the past years and that to me says a lot. I've been so disappointed lately with the slump in genuine horror films that I had all but given up in really finding a worthy scare...that was until I heard about 'The Descent'. Granted, there have been horror films of late that have proven to be watchable, to be intense and at times, yes even a little scary, but nothing that had my skin crawling. I wanted to feel trapped, helpless and alone. I can honestly say that throughout the majority of this film that is how I felt, even though the theater was packed and my brother was sitting right next to me.

'The Descent' centers on a group of women who enjoy pushing themselves to the limit. The movie opens with three of them, Sarah (Shauna MacDonald), Beth (Alex Reid) and Juno (Natalie Mendoza) rafting down some rapids while Sarah's husband and daughter watch in amazement. These girls are fearless...until tragedy strikes in the form of a freak accident that takes the life of Sarah's family. A year later the three girls meet again for their yearly adventure, this time in the Appellation Mountains for some caving. They meet up with three other girls, sisters Sam (MyAnna Buring) and Rebecca (Saskia Mulder) and new addition Holly (Nora-Jane Noone), all of whom we have a few minutes to get to know, and then they're off. Juno is the leader of the group, she called the group together for their adventure and she serves as their guide. The only problem is she's not much of a guide being that she doesn't know the cave's they enter.

Soon after entering these unknown, uncharted and undiscovered caves the girls become trapped when their point of entry caves in. Without a map these girls have to find their way out, find another exit by burrowing deeper into the cave. This fills the viewer with a sense of claustrophobia that doesn't go away until the credits role. The monsters haven't even shown up and you're already on edge. Everything around these girls is foreign to them, is a potential danger. They are forced to push themselves as far as they can go, to the point of wanting to give up for everything looks helpless. The viewer is also forced to feel this way. I had what I wanted. I felt trapped as they did, I felt helpless as they did, and once the creatures show up, and in a rush of panic the girls separate...I felt alone as they did.

From the moment the crawlers show up the movie takes a frantic turn from increasingly creepy and atmospheric to intense and horrific as these girls fight to survive, let alone escape. As intentions are revealed between the girls it also makes things all the more horrifying for you don't know who to trust. If you can't trust anyone then you truly are alone. The pace doesn't let up once the creatures are on the screen, and your heart won't stop racing either. As some of the critics have pointed out, this is a truly horrific film with images that won't leave you anytime soon, and yes, while I was able to sleep alright and didn't toss and turn in fear I was haunted by what I saw. This is not a film for the squeamish, that's a fact not an opinion. Neil Marshall did a brilliant job directing this film, giving it the raw edge that true horror films need, giving it not only jump scenes with blood and gore but building a layer, a foundation of fear before the first drop of blood is shed. And the actresses need to be commended for proving to be believable as well as likable, never 'over-acting' but giving us the feel that this is really happening and that these women are really that petrified (as I'm sure even the manliest of men would be in that given situation). Amazing job all the way around without much of a single drawback.

I do say 'without much' and I only say that because of the ending. Now I've seen the US version so I can't speak for the UK version that has a different ending I hear. The US ending, while not horrible, leaves you wondering what is really going on. I have my ideas, that of which I won't share so as not to spoil anything, but I will say that it reminded me a bit of the way I felt after watching 'The Ring'. The only drawback to that film was that the ending didn't answer any of our questions, it just added to the confusion. I felt that way after watching 'The Descent'...confused...but it's not really enough to harp on. The movie does enough redeeming work BEFORE the ending that it's easily forgiven.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon June 27, 2006
You've got a pretty tight group of girlfriends. You're a pretty tough girl yourself. You do a lot of adventurous stuff that usually includes mostly just your girlfriends.

After a year's hiatus due to a terrible family tragedy, you decide it's time to hook up with your girls and shake the bad memories on a spelunking outing.

You head to a remote area of the Appalachian Mountains to some charted caves recommended by a spelunking guide, according to one of your group members. You embark with 6 friends into the caves from the highpoint in the mountain...down...down...down through the bowels of the mountain in search of an exit at a lower point.

Then two of a plethora of bad things happen. A tunnel that you came through is sealed off leaving you only one way to go...down. And your partner reveals the reality that a guide didn't recommend the caves at all; she thought it would make the excursion more adventurous in unexplored caves. There is no charted way out.

Think that's a problem? How about shining your light down the next tunnel where you see an eerie human-ish looking figure crouched in the dark peering back at you?

The Descent has chills. There's high suspense. It goes without saying that there are good old fashioned jump-out-of-the-dark scares (they are in a cave!). No special effects needed here to generate excitement. The creatures are well designed and scary.

The story flows very well. The acting is better than the average Horror flick. And Director Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers) keeps a better than average flow of twists and turns coming.

Do indeed see it if you're into the genre.
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112 of 149 people found the following review helpful
on August 4, 2006
Neil Marshall's follow-up to his cult-favorite werewolf film, Dog Soldiers, has finally arrived in the US. The Descent doesn't disappoint and I must say that Marshall's filmmaking skills have dramatically improved since the last time he's made and released a film. The Descent marks another notch on the resurgence of the horror genre's return to its darker, meaner and exploitative past when filmmakers weren't shy about pushing the boundaries.

The film begins with a tragedy that strikes at the heart of one of the women in the film. Sarah's (played by Shauna MacDonald) tragic losses in the initial beginnings of the film becomes the emotional and psychological foundation that gives The Descent its emotional heft. It turns Marshall's film from just your typical survival-horror film into one about interesting female group dynamics and the measures people would take in order to survive. The rest of the cast appear pretty quickly. There's Sarah's friend Beth (played by Alex Reid) who accompanies Sarah to the US at the invitation of their American friend Juno (played by the hot Natalie Mendoza). This trio of friends are soon joined the trio of Holly (Nora Jane-Noonan) and a pair of sisters in Sam (MyAnna Buring) and Becca (Saskia Mulder). With Juno taking lead in what was to be a bonding weekend for all the ladies, The Descent gradually brings about a heavy sense of dread that something is amiss not just at the activity they're about to engage in but in the group dynamics within the female group.

The six ladies undertake a spelunking expedition in a cave system in the Appalachian Mountains (already the film takes its first nod of homage to another great film about survival, Deliverance). The outdoor scenes in the woods was actually shot in the forests of Scotland, but one could never guess and Marshall doesn't linger overmuch in the bright, airy and safe outdoors. Juno soon leads her all-female spelunkers deep into the cave. Their descent into the darkening and gradually oppresive depths of the cave system takes abit longer than necessary, but just when the film was about to become a rehash of Cliffhanger, things suddenly become claustrophobic and the sense that every moment these ladies continue their descent the closer they put themselves into the arms of their inevitable doom.

Things go from bad to worse in a cave-in scene that's sure to make those with problems of claustrophobia to close their eyes tightly and cover their ears. Except for a few slightly fake looking cave in rocks and debris, this cave-in scene will get hearts pumping and nerves racing. The scene is shot in a very up-close and intimate fashion that the audience has no choice but to feel as if they're trapped in that barely there tunnel as it begins to collapse around Sarah and Juno. Once the scene is over the ladies soon find themselves cut-off from the only exit they know. One could almost see panic begin to set-in, nerves fray and tempers simmer on the participants. Juno, already established as the alpha-female of the group, continues to take charge of the situation but already her reckless and infectious bravado in the beginning of the film becomes more of a thin veneer hiding a personality that uses such traits to hide a much more duplicitous and cowardly persona.

From this moment of the film until the very final shot (well for the American version at least and more on that later), The Descent takes the meaning of oppresive claustrophobia and magnifies it to the nth degree. Gone are the daylight and open air of the outside forest. Even the upper levels of the cave would be a welcome sight for its stalactites and rock formations glittering from excess water runoff reflecting ambient light. Their descent deeper into the cavern system truly seems like a descent into that primordial fear everyone has since their earliest years: the fear of the dark and the unknown. Then to compound those primordial fears, Marshall adds in the internal conflict and discovered betrayals and secrets within the group dynamic. Its bad enough that these ladies have to contend with the terror of the surrounding darkness and what might dwell in its absence of light, but now personal baggage and secrets puts a new degree of danger to their chances of survival. Steel Magnolias this female-bonding film it is not.

Neil Marshall and his cinematographer, Sam McCurdy, really play with the senses and fears of not just the audience but of the characters trapped in the dark with only a dwindling supply of glowsticks and batteries for their flashlights. The scenes which evokes some of the biggest moments of fright and horror shows nothing on the screen but a blackened, lightless sequence. These scenes impact in terms of horror were compounded by Marshall's excellent use of sound and its effect in confined, lightless spaces. The audience might not see whats going on in the scene, but we sure could hear every panting, panicky breath, random trickling of water that gives an impression of blind, water torture, and unknown rustles of movement that seem to come in from every direction. The Descent makes great use of the surround sound system in the theater. I noticed more than a few times people looking up and around the theater wondering if the sound is coming from those directions.

The boogeyman, or men (and thats using the term very loosely), don't make an appearance until almost halfway through the film, but the first look the audience get of the Crawlers is bound to give some viewers nightmakes for days to come. The Crawlers themselves were not fully explained and they're barely seen until the very final reel of the film. Marshall's decision to let the claustrophobia and disorienting darkness hint more than show in the early stages of their fight against the Crawlers was pivotal one since it kept the monstrous visage of the creatures from becoming overly familiar too soon. Marshall gives us hints of whats stalking the ladies and lets the audiences' fevered imagination make up the rest. Once the Crawlers are seen abit more fully they're appearance and behavior do not fail whatever imagined concepts the viewer made. These creatures are fast, vicious and more than abit hungry. The scenes where the Crawlers wreak bloody havoc on Sarah, Juno and the rest of the gang will delight and satisfy fans of gore while making those not used to them quesy to their stomach. Marshall doesn't go overboard with the gore, but he does shoot and choreograph the violence in an almost lyrical fashion. He's also made the characters fleshed out enough that the audience wants them to survive and cheer whenever they fight back with a modicum of success.

The Descent is such a refreshing, albeit one that's also terrifying and pulse-pounding, horror film. It takes the recent resurgence of extreme horror, or goreror as some have called it, but keeps the balance between primal terror and gory disgust. Marshall does a fine job of keeping the story from descending too much into the realm of extreme exploitation. The exploitative nature of the film's violence is still there, but it never becomes so much as to desensitize and turn away the people its trying to scare and entertain. The film doesn't bring anything new to the genre. The premise has been done in films such as Alien and Predator. The look of the film once the group is trapped underground even has hints of Argento as Marshall and McCurdy make great use of lighting in an attempt to pierce the solid darkness of the cave.

The last couple years have given fans of the horror genre quite a good list of very good to great films heralding the return of horror to its very hard rated-R roots. Its a place that has been neglected too long by Hollywood and filmmakers, in general. Now we have The Descent to continue building on what films like The Devil's Rejects and The Hills Have Eyes, and to a lesser degree, Hostel and the Saw series, have begun in giving the fans of the horror genre what they truly want. What we really want are horror films that are not just about atmosphere and mood lighting, but also one that's brutal, nerve-wracking, and adrenaline-pumping. Horror was meant to be in the realm of R and NC-17 and not in the sissified level of PG-13. Neil Marshall has proven that his cult-classic Dog Soldiers was not a fluke. He has shown with The Descent that he's more than able to join the ranks of the new crop of horror auteurs like Rob Zombie and Alejandre Aja. Here's to hoping that Marshall continues to make great horror films.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on March 14, 2007
I love a great horror film that can actually make you want to turn the light on or lose sleep after watching it. Every so often a film comes along that accomplishes this and 'The Descent' is a prime example. The film is a departure from the clutter of junk horror films that have been released over the past few years by not merely infiltrating you with just startle scenes. The sheer fear factor of being trapped hundreds of feet below ground with the prospect of death at every turn is simply the cornerstone of the aural terror you feel throughout most of the film.

The Blu-ray presentation is immaculate from the reference quality video to the PCM 6.1 lossless audio track that is amazingly immersive. A must see for any horror fan and a 'high recommend' for anyone!
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Have a couple of drinks and you'll be all set for this film, although put your glass out of harm's way, cos otherwise you'll end up spilling it all over yourself. Not good.

This film is one of the best thrillers/horrors/whatever I've seen yet, and it's so simplistic! There's no major special effects, just simple jump-the-height-of-yourself scares. What really worked for me, was that the light was only really provided by the character's lights on their helmets. That was it. So you can never fully see what's on the screen. And believe me, it really works. Although, at points for me, it didn't, cos I was muddling up some of the characters, and the ones I wanted to live, didn't.

The actresses were really good, especially Shauna McDonald, who managed to pull the role off, despite being totally covered in blood at one point. Lovely. I really liked Holly's character (and the accent!) What made the film really mind blowing for me, was the start. Viewers literally get thrown into the thick of things, and I was sitting there going "That car's not going to hit them surely, it's just ..." Oh dear. BANG. Fast forward a year later, and the film really kicks off. But was that an underlying story somewhere? Sarah's (Shauna McDonald) husband seemed to be hiding something, and later, Juno says that they all lost something in the crash. Just a little something I noticed.

Keep a close eye out early on when they're in the caves, you do actually see the creatures watching them. I didn't notice it straight away, but got it pointed out to me. The creatures weren't actually shown to the actresses until they had to actually film with them, and then they got their reaction for real. That must have been some reaction!

All in all, a really simplistic but scary movie, with a really freaky cover. The cover alone is enough to send shivers up your spine.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2007
This is probably the most effective horror movie I have ever seen. The all female cast does a phenomenal job of keeping the audiences attention (and no there is no nudity). Shows what a talented director and cast can do with little money and a good story. Has more scares and is more entertaining than the majority of horror that is released in theatres.
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