The Descent (2005)

Some things are better left in the dark!

A group of friends finishes up a whitewater rafting experience, still enjoying the effects of the adrenaline they joke with each other and we are introduced to the characters. Sarah, played by Shauna Macdonald (Late Night Shopping, The Rocket Post) with her husband Paul, played by Oliver Milburn (Green Wing, Sweet Medicine) and daughter Jessica and their friends Juno, played by Natalie Mendoza (Moulin Rouge, Code 46) and Beth, played by Alex Reid (Last Orders, The Honeymooners). Whilst driving back, Paul is distracted and this leads to a fatal accident in which Paul and Jessica are killed.

We move forward one year and the friends are reunited with some new faces, Sam, Rebecca, and Holly in a cabin in the Appalachian Mountains planning spelunking and cave exploring adventure. As they hike to the entrance of the cave Sarah is distant from her friends and rebuffs attempts to communicate with her.

Upon starting their adventure, disaster strikes as the entrance to the cave collapses behind them, forcing the group further into the cave in the hope of finding a way out. Advancing further into the cave, old climbing equipment is discovered with potential signs for the way out. This seems promising for the group as all doesn’t seem so hopeless now. As one of the group falls and becomes seriously injured the friends attempt to rescue and help her.

Whilst recovering their friend, members of the group start seeing things, first out of the corners of their eyes; things that cannot be possible. Juno reveals to the group that she lied and that the caves they’re in are uncharted and undiscovered; stating she hopes to have the cave claimed by the group. The problem with that is that the caves remain unclaimed and un-named, meaning that the owners of the forgotten equipment weren’t able to claim the caves.

Panic begins to set into the group as they realize they aren’t alone and whatever is with them is very hungry. Trapped in the unknown cave system the group is separated and tries desperately to escape not knowing where they are headed and unable to see around them while being stalked by something hiding within the dark. A terrifying sequence unfolds as the group of friends tries to reunite and escape the horror that is hunting them in the dark and claustrophobic caves.

The atmosphere in The Decent is terrifying and the cast does an excellent job of conveying the panic of their situations but also the creeping mistrust that develops between the characters. Details of backstory emerge to bring about explosive consequences between the friends causing a battle on two fronts. Just in the situation that you need to rely on trusted people the story flips this narrative brilliantly, causing additional dread.

Directed by Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers, Tales of Halloween) who has deservedly earned a reputation for delivering great horror stories in very simple ways. There aren’t any over the top sequences in The Decent and viewers can experience the terror of the unfolding events without suddenly being jarred from this with a “Are you kidding?” moment that can ruin a potentially good story.

The whole story encapsulates a frantic fight for survival and viewers are carried along with the story experiencing the emotions and claustrophobia of the cramped world the group of friends finds themselves trapped in. The Descent is a shining example of what can be achieved with minimal special effects and with great performances by the cast along with great storytelling and direction and will entertain and terrify viewers from the jarring opening scenes to the shocking climax and well beyond the rolling of the credits.