The Descent (2005): I Haven’t Seen the Sequel But I Still Like To Pretend It Doesn’t Exist

I watched this film for one of my classes. Before this class, I only had the vague notion of remembering it on the walls of Blockbuster.

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I definitely remember seeing this on the walls of Blockbuster back when Blockbuster wasn’t a relic of the past.

My title makes it sound like I didn’t like the film, but that’s really not the case. I just thought the original, British ending was very good, complete, and a sequel completely unnecessary and, frankly, missing the entire point. (Similarly, if you ask me about the Maximum Ride series, but I will insist that only three books exist in the series.)

The Descent (Neil Marshall) follows six women who go exploring in a previously undiscovered cave and become trapped within it, where they are preyed on upon by carnivorous humanoid creatures.

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What could possibly go wrong?

Even without the later flesh-eating things that inhabit the cave, it’s still rather horrifying. The first half of the film, you are reminded constantly of the dangers of spelunking and their constant risk of just dying in that cave. Dark, cramped, and completely unknown, that in itself is enough to bother people. Plus, caves are objectively creepy, like mirrors or dolls or clowns.

These women experience all sorts of horrors and the film is filled with all kinds of suspense. The dark, claustrophobic focus of the frame was enough to keep me at the edge of my seat.

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Caves are just kind of scary, even without flesh-eating monsters.

The thing was, it wasn’t so scary. It was rather intense, very suspenseful, and it was thrilling. Flesh-eating humanoid things don’t even come in until nearly an hour into the film, but it still remains intense as the women attempt to find their way out of the cave.

I will put a disclaimer: I tend to be less scared when it comes to corporeal horrors (exception is perhaps clowns). Ghostly things, spirits, possession, etc., those tend to creep me out more. I also find it less terrifying when the creature/monster/whatever is confined to a certain geographical location, like the Appalachians in this case. I don’t live anywhere near the Appalachians, so it makes it easier to put behind me. Stuff like ghosts though? Geography is not one of their limitations and that kind of freaks me out.

The Descent was exciting though. The darkness of the cave and the ferociousness of the crawlers (as I believe they are called in the credits) make it an intense film that did keep me on the edge of my seat.

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Don’t get me wrong, the crawlers were very creepy.

Sorry, spoiler, people die. What was interesting about it were the alternate theories that float around the strange realm of Reddit. Mild spoilers ahead (although nothing that can’t be guessed) though.

Just in case you want to skip ahead to the conclusion.

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There was this theory that suggested that Sarah was the one that killed them all and that the cave was a representation of her broken psyche and that the crawlers never existed. It was not the first thing I thought when I watched it, but the Reddit thread made some pretty convincing arguments if anyone cares to search for it.

I usually roll my eyes at the overused “it’s all in your head” trope, but this thread brought up some evidence that I couldn’t quite counter. I think I may need a little more convincing, but it’s certainly got a start.

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Conclusion: The Descent is exciting and thrilling and suspenseful, but, while having all the classic horror tropes (group lost somewhere without any help coming, people dying one by one, wandering off alone for no discernible reason other than the fact they were in a horror movie), doesn’t quite play off as horrifying as the cover makes it seem; however, it still does not put off the audience as it incorporates interesting turns on some horror tropes and utilizes all the suspense effectively. Bonus points for the all-women cast. 6/10.

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2 thoughts on “The Descent (2005): I Haven’t Seen the Sequel But I Still Like To Pretend It Doesn’t Exist

  1. I really liked this film. As you said, the setting itself and the premise of being trapped in the cave is quite unsettling enough even before they start getting attacked by the creatures. Admittedly, the sequel really did just kind of ruin the ending of this so why on earth do they insist on making sequels to movies that are clearly complete in an of themselves.

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