The Descent Creatures
For a low-budget movie, the descent creatures character design was one of the best. The Nosferatu-like design was a huge hit among horror fans. The director also made sure the cast wasn’t allowed to see the final creature designs and even had them separated from the creature actors just for good measure. These Descent monsters acted mercilessly and the added hostility really showed in the movie.
Another thing Neil Marshall did was to consciously hire actors instead of the usual stuntmen for the descent crawlers. This breathes more creative life and wisdom to these cave-dwelling monsters and if you watch the movie again you’d notice that some of these crawlers were a bit “extra” haha.
Another thing that’s great about having more than 3 people. Having at least 5 or 6 people gives the audience time to process and see the characters as human beings, not just mere victims the whole time. Most of the best horror films of all time either had a happy ending, more than one survivor or have a fighting chance at least.
The Descent (2005) Embraced an All-Female Cast
Neil Marshall, the movie director wanted to have an all-female cast. He wanted something different from the usual final girl tropes where you have a mix of men and women. This in a way, empowers two female characters more naturally.
Neil Marshall directed the cult favorite “Dog Soldiers” back in 2002. Following The Descent movies, he’s also directed some Game of Thrones episodes and a Hellboy reboot. The man is clearly talented and it shows the impact of his first two movies which have cult followings to this day. Hollywood has taken notice so expect more good stuff from Neil Marshall in the future.
The movie also makes a horror movie less about monsters and more about moral choices. The Descent movie has a lot of surprises, some pleasant and some horrific, but it makes for a refreshing horror movie experience.
The Descent movie was a surprise sleeper hit back in 2005 when it was first released. It was a small horror movie about a group of 6 female friends spelunking in the Appalachian mountains. The horror begins when an earthquake traps them inside a cave. What starts out as a scary cave horror movie surprises you to no end.
They then discover that they must fight to survive against some prehistoric-humanoid cannibals that inhabit the area. The movie’s fans call them “Descent Crawlers” and were actually based on the likeness of Nosferatu according to the movie’s creators.
The Descent movies are one of the most popular sleeper hits in the horror genre despite having a tiny budget. It also was released right after the 9/11 attacks so they had problems with the poster since they couldn’t use the word “Terror” during that turbulent, fear-stricken period in history.
The Opening Sequence
The horrific end to what seemed like a happy moment with friends and family abruptly turns into a nightmarish sequence of how life can be so cruel and random in an instant. It keeps the audience tuned in even more, curious about how this gruesome opening scene will affect the whole movie in its entirety.
The average audience’s reaction to this would be: “Ok like, this was horrific. Now you have my attention, show me more.” I’ve noticed most movies that start off like this normally end up being something I’d like to watch by myself. Most if not all great movies start really strong, or at least give you the feeling that you might be watching something worthwhile.
Then when it cuts to the car driving into what appears to be an outdoor adventure with friends as the movie synopsis suggests, you go back to feeling relaxed again. Wonderful. Time to go get more snacks because this one looks like a doozy.
Dealing with being trapped in a cave is horrific enough, but when you’re stuck with a home-wrecking bitch of a friend, on top of dealing with a family tragedy, seems so relatable to people and diverts your attention to what lurks within the caves. It just added more tension to an already terrible situation. The claustrophobia plus the agony of keeping some real shit you can’t let out just seems likely to have happened to everyone at some point in their lives.
The Descent Cast
There are six main characters stuck in the cave but let’s be real here, there are only 2 that we really mattered. Sarah is played by Shauna Macdonald and Juno is played by Natalie Mendoza. The internal conflict between these two characters makes all the descent monsters insignificant in a weird way.
There are scenes where Sarah’s utter disdain and hatred for Juno are only undermined solely by the need for their survival. Their individual survival and fighting skills necessitate their cooperation in some scenes, only to be overshadowed by the lingering hatred of one over the other.
Juno, the adulterer, appears to be the most skilled of them all since she is a seasoned cave explorer and avid outdoor enthusiast. It was discussed earlier in a conversation between Sarah and her other friend that Juno does travel a lot for outdoor adventures. It was also Juno’s idea that they go spelunking in the Appalachian mountains.
It was also great how in the beginning you wouldn’t care much for Juno and hoped that if someone was going to be killed early, she’d be a good character to get rid of. But the movie’s creators made sure to get the audience back by showing how remorseful and concerned she was about Sarah’s well-being. Not to mention how skilled and useful she was to have around, it felt like she kind of won the audience over towards the end.
The Descent Characters Had a Fighting Chance
Apart from the numbers, 6 women (2 of who were clearly capable of handling the monsters), they were equipped with flashlights, glowsticks, first aid kits, picks, survival knives, and enough training to at least have a fighting chance. I see this error almost always in mediocre survival horror movies wherein the lead actress just doesn’t have a chance in hell and it really upsets the audience when that happens.
The Descent Film Location
The movie was shot in a studio in the U.K. and they had to build around 27 artificial studio caves for variety but had to use some over and over since they did run out for some scenes. It also helped that they set the story in the Appalachian mountains because if they had set it in the U.K. I think it wouldn’t have resonated with the U.S. audience as much as it did.
The Descent Movies Unpredictability
The twists and turns of the story help a lot with the movie’s overall quality. Horror movies normally just go with 1 main plot and ride it till the end. This movie, however, puts you through a range of emotions and moral dilemmas all throughout the movie. You have so much to process while watching this movie that it totally engages you.
The main story itself is already so difficult e.g. loss, grief, and betrayal. Then you get thrown in a claustrophobic and dark cave with flesh-eating humanoids.
The Descent 2
The Descent 2 was a bit of a letdown but it was still a good follow-up for fans of the first movie. There’s a bit of plot armor magic where Juno has miraculously survived the onslaught of monsters she was stuck with in the first movie (with a busted leg).
But it does follow the same formula where you have 7 people in a cave to give the audience the security that there’s going to be a bunch of bodies thrown at the creatures before it starts getting dangerous for the main characters. Still, they follow the formula of the characters not totally being helpless which is great. They had expert cave explorers, a doctor, and an armed sheriff.
Sarah is somehow back in the caves with temporary amnesia from the first traumatic experience. She was brought by the Sheriff who wanted to uncover what happened to her friends who might also still be alive in the cave.
Of course, Sarah is unable to warn the poor souls earlier about the man-eating humanoid crawlers. In the end, it turns out Juno is miraculously still alive and has even forgiven Sarah for leaving her and even stabbing her leg to ensure her demise. The Descent 2 ends better in my opinion, it gives everybody much-needed closure. I don’t really feel the need for another sequel after watching this
The Descent movies are on Netflix right now
It’s also on Amazon Prime Video on demand. This is truly a horror classic that will hold up for years to come because of its simplistic elegance.
Will There Be a The Descent 3?
There was a clamor for another one and Neil Marshall did mention some interest in continuing to make another but it eventually just faded into memory. He did mention an interest recently in making a Dog Soldiers remake in an interview with Bloody Disgusting so there’s that.