Silver Screams V: The Descent (2005)

Silver Screams V continues with Leon Nicholson looking at The Descent starring Shauna MacDonald, Natalie Mendoza and Alex Reid.

Acting as the follow up to his debut feature film Dog Soldiers, Neil Marshall writes and directs The Descent. Will it however replicate the decent reception of his first film or will it be looked at either his best or worst movie to date?

On the anniversary of a tragic accident, six girlfriends Sarah (Shauna MacDonald), Juno (Natalie Mendoza), Beth (Alex Reid), Rebecca (Saskia Mulder), Sam (MyAnna Buring) and Holly (Nora-Jane Noone) meet for their annual adventure at a far-flung mountain range for a caving trip deep into the heart of the earth. The girls make their way through a remote cave system thriving on every moment of the adrenaline flowing through their veins. Then disaster strikes – deep inside the cave, their route back to the surface is blocked by a sudden rock-fall.

The girls learn that Juno has brought them to an unexplored cave and no-one is coming to rescue them. This leaves them with very little option apart from pushing on, hoping they can find their way to another exit. They are however unaware that lurking in the darkness is a race of horrendous, monstrous creatures watching their every move. When the girls realise that they are prey, they are forced to revert to their very primal instincts to survive as they attempt to fight back. Will they make it out alive or will the monsters enjoy feasting on fresh human flesh?

Generally, the six leads in the movie turn out some extremely strong performances and along with Marshall’s writing and direction, nearly everything here binds well together. Sam McCurdy’s cinematography is impressive using the rugged backdrop of the Scottish mountains as a character itself. All in all these factors contribute to a very well made movie.

The other factor that is notable here is,  through Neil Marshall’s writing, it’s clear that the enemy/monsters are not the creatures after their blood but actually themselves. This situation is exacerbated as the girls try to make their way through the tight, claustrophobic network of tunnels which seem to get tighter as friendships begin to show strains.

The downside however, is that the final act when the girls begin to fight back is weaker than the first two which were full of claustrophobic tension and terror. In a way the third act is cathartic – it’s as if Marshall, through the characters needed an almighty release, which whilst gory and bloody feels less effective.

The Descent is one of those rare horror movies that has almost everything. It’s tense, bloody, gory and shocking. It is also very, very good. This is certainly Neil Marshall’s best feature film to date.

FMV Rating ****½

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