The Descent is a rare gem – it has a female cast without gender stereotypes, it has characters that don’t make stupid decisions for the sake of cheap thrills, and it has a story with a plausible well-executed plot.
The relatable characters are supported by great performances. The girls are experienced cave adventurers and know what they’re doing until ego leads the group to bite more than they can chew.
As the situation gets dire, claustrophobia sets in as the girls squeeze their way out and avoid falling into the dark abyss. When it’s clear that nature is not the only one they’re up against, the sustained suspension turns into full-blown run-for-your-life horror.
The scares are nerve-wracking and creative. Despite a low budget the film manages to turn you into a bundle of nerves by making the best of what it has – the setting and good direction instead of an unkillable CGI big bad. It has a lot of gore but they move the story forward and develop the characters instead of just being used for shock value.
There’s also other questions – apart from the “things” – that add another layer to the character dynamic – what’s with the tension between Sarah and Juno?
Combine all of this and you have a cult classic that manages to make you reflect on morality and mortality. The peek-a-boo scares and the creature feature is familiar, but the Descent proves that talent and execution can elevate a generic concept.
The Descent elevates its generic concept with an all-female cast, inventive scares, and a nerve-wracking well-executed plot.