Shauna Macdonald, Natalie Jackson Mendoza, Saskia Mulder, Alex Reid, MyAnna Buring, Molly Kayll and Nora-Jane Noone

Neil Marshall

Running Time:
99 mins

Out to buy on DVD 07/11/05

"I saw something"

Trying to take Sarah's (Macdonald) mind of the events that happened a year earlier, Juno (Mendoza), Rebecca (Mulder), Beth (Reid), Sam (Buring) and Holly (Noone) organise a caving trip in the US Appalachian Mountains, as they try and recapture their love for extreme sports. Thinking they are tackling an already discovered cave, things start to go wrong when Juno informs them that no one has been in this cave system before and Sarah thinks that they may not be alone.

The British horror movie is making a bit of a comeback but does 'The Descent' have what it takes to draw you into the light or will it drag you down into a bottomless pit.

From the writer/director of the cult werewolf/action horror 'Dog Soldiers', Neil Marshall takes you down a more conventional fright path, forgetting about the comic banter that made his last film such a hit. This is the movie's main flaw. The sense of British horror humour has disappeared to be replaced by an all out survival horror take, which feels far too Hollywood for its own good. The film descends into a 'who will die next' scenario bringing nothing new to the genre and no real invention, that you would have expected from the writer/director.

What it does do is deliver a formulaic horror movie that is still a cut above anything that is coming out of Tinsel Town at the moment, however. This is an action movie with strong survival horror traits and female leads. Not wanting to bog itself down with romantic subplots, the all female cast have to fight for their lives as soon as the cave reveals its dark and deadly secret. This is when the film really takes off and becomes a fun, popcorn ride for the viewer.

What precedes it is a slow, careful build up that establishes the key characters and the claustrophobic darkness of the cave. While this is slightly over long, Marshall skilfully uses this time to create fear and tension with the group and the audience. As soon as the danger is revealed, it becomes a matter of gruesome death and survival but Marshall plays with the formulaic principles of the genre and throws in a few twists and turns to try and spark some originality into the mix.

On the acting front there are two standout performances from the six female principle and these are Shauna Macdonald and Natalie Jackson Mendoza as Sarah and Juno. Each of them plays strong female parts that come into their own when the trouble really starts. Macdonald's Sarah sees the most growth, as her character switches from a woman riddled with images from her traumatic past and an overwhelming feeling of grief, which you can't blame her for to someone who takes on the fight, wanting to survive. Mendoza's Juno is also a strong female character. Brave and willing to take risks, most of the time for her own gratification, Juno has much to make up for with Sarah but at what expense. Both of these performances are strong and should get both of these actresses noticed. The rest of the cast don't get the same amount of development or screen time however, especially the very talented Nora-Jane Noone who is completely wasted, leading you to make the conclusion that they are just gore fodder and outlining the fact that Macdonald and Mendoza are the lead characters.

'The Descent' is a good addition to the action horror genre but from a British point of view it doesn't inject enough creativity or imagination to match films like 'Shaun of the Dead' or Marshall's pervious effort' Dog Soldier'. As a popcorn horror however, there is enough gore and scares to keep you entertained but just don't expect it to be another cult classic.

Audio commentary from director Neil Marshall and members of the cast Shauna MacDonald, Myanna Buring, Alex Reid, Saskia Mulder and Nora-Jane Noone
Audio commentary from Neil Marshall and producer Christian Colson, editor Jon Harris, production designer Simon Bowles and assistant editor Catriona Richardson
Extended scenes 'Making Of' featurette (45 mins)
Outtakes Storyboard comparisons
Stills galleries
Biographies of cast and crew
Theatrical trailer

Dog Soldiers

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