I am not usually a fan of horror movies, but fortunately, this one is one of the exceptions.
I found “The Descent” on Vice’s list of best horror movies on Netflix right now. I had never heard of it and its description was interesting, so I decided to check it out for myself.
In 2003, one year after Sarah loses her husband and daughter in a tragic car accident, she and five of her friends reunite in North Carolina to go caving. When there’s a cave-in, the ladies must try to find a way out while battling mysterious, bloodthirsty creatures.
There is a lot to like about this movie, but for me, its strength comes from its acting, its writing, its camera work, and its makeup department.
The women who make up this group of friends are the best actresses I think I’ve ever seen in a horror movie. Considering the tropes of the genre, it was shocking to see a group of female friends portrayed so realistically. These women talked like real female friends talked. They acted like normal women. Even though you do not get to spend enough time with them individually to get to know most of them, you still felt shocked when horrible things happened to them because their performances felt so realistic.
That realism translated to its writing. When their circumstances went horribly wrong, these women reacted realistically. A few of them tried to be heroic and were heroic at times, but eventually, they were all too traumatized to make rational decisions and think about protecting anyone but themselves. As tragic as that is and as much as the audience wants to believe that wouldn’t be them in those circumstances, you can’t help but sympathize because the actresses were so relatable even in their worst moments. You cannot help but picture yourself acting the same way in similar circumstances.
That realism translated well because of how well the movie was shot and edited. I found myself asking how they were getting these shots multiple times during the movie. The shots were tight, claustrophobic, and dark making you feel like you were in the cave with the six leading ladies. The only downside was that there were times, especially during the action sequences, where you had a harder time following what was happening. It did not happen often enough to detract from the movie and was most likely an artistic choice, but it did happen.
The least realistic aspect of this movie was the crawlers, the creatures who dwelled in the cave, but they were surprisingly well-handled. When I was watching this movie, I thought the crawlers were going to ruin this perfectly fine set-up. I thought that they would be cheesy special effects that brought the viewers out of the experience. Fortunately, I was completely wrong. Because of the editing and the realistic make-up, the crawlers felt like a natural part of the cave and added to the horror instead of being distracting. I probably still wouldn’t have included them if it were me making the movie, but if someone wants a mysterious monster in a horror movie, this is how they should be handled.
In conclusion, “The Descent” is a well-made, mostly realistic horror movie about how quickly humans can break down when at the mercy of nature. It’s well-acted, well-written, and well-shot with well-handled monsters. It is also criminally-underrated, so I recommend you watch it for yourself whenever you’re in the mood for a great horror flick.