Droid defines the Decades best movies – #10 The Descent (2005)

The Descent Poster I think it’s well established that I don’t like horror films. Other than a select few, I find the majority of them insultingly stupid, badly made and terribly acted. Sometimes I’ll watch them to laugh at their ineptitude, or in the case of ‘House of Wax’, to see Paris Hilton brutally murdered. ‘The Descent’ is one of the rarities of the genre. It’s smart, well written, features great performances and most of all, is masterfully directed.

A year after a car crash that killed her husband and daughter, Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) joins her friends Juno (Natalie Mendoza), Beth (Alex Reid), Sam (MyAnna Buring), Rebecca (Saskia Mulder) and Holly (Nora-Jane Noone) for a caving expedition in the Appalachian mountains. After a cave in blocks their only known way out, this group of friends must find their way to safety. But they are not alone down there, and they’ll have to start swinging the pick axe if they’ve any hope of survival.

The Descent 3 As evidenced by that description, the story itself is simple. What makes ‘The Descent’ unique are the characters, and their relationships. The writing really is brilliant in the way it conveys and develops these characters without resorting to talking head exposition. We know exactly what Juno’s relationship with Sarah’s husband was, all from one look in the first few minutes. And the way the cracks start to appear on Sarah’s fragile state of mind makes her descent (Hey! That’s the name of the movie!) into madness feel believable. She’s a deeply disturbed individual.

The Descent 1 The film is kind of broken up in to two halves. The first being the lead up scenes to the caving and the caving itself, which pretty much had me squirming in my seat. I’ll be honest. I only watched this for the second time tonight. The first was at the cinema in 2005. It’s scared the bejeezus out of me then, and it did so again tonight. I sat there thinking to myself, “there’s no way in hell I’d be caught dead wriggling my way through a tunnel underneath the earth”. The second half is the creature fest, where there are mistakes made by characters that will effect the rest of the story. One big one in particular.

What makes the film even more effective are the performances of the actresses. We like each character (although Holly’s a bit annoying), and from the get go we’re on theirThe Descent 2 side and hope each of them can somehow make it out alive. I especially liked Beth, who doesn’t take shit, and Juno, who’s guilt and regret just keep piling up. Each character is very likeable, which makes it all the more horrifying when the monsters are unleashed.

As a sidenote, is it wrong in a film this good to let your mind wander to a situation where you’re the meat in a Natalie Mendoza/Lucy Liu sandwich? They look so similar that it’d be like shagging twins! Hummana! Hummana!

The Descent 5 Neil Marshall has not only written a great script, but his direction is superb. Especially when we get to the cave. The scenes of the girls squeezing through the tight confines of the tunnels is excruciating to watch. It’s so well crafted that part of me wishes that the film didn’t have to unleash the beasties, and was just a tale of this groups survival after the cave in. But the hounds demand gore and they get what they want. The eye gouging! Sweet Jesus, the eye gouging! I want to make particular mention of the way Marshall uses not only the dark, but the vivid colours of the torches, glow sticks (doof! doof!) and flares. The way he uses the reds, greens and yellows help differentiate one scene to the next, which ensures we never feel that the movie is repeating itself. It’s very effective.

The Descent 4 I would also like to make mention of the ending. The real ending that is. It’s absolutely brilliant and a complete kick in the guts after 85 minutes of mere punches to the guts. I can only assume that you’ve all seen this film, but if you haven’t I’m about to talk about something that will contain SPOILERS so please skip to the next paragraph. Okay? Still here? Good. The American ending is absolute garbage and makes no sense. The film is about Sarah’s mental breakdown, and what she does to Juno is her death sentence. Her character cannot survive after what she did. It’s a rule. I may have just made the rule up this very moment, but it’s now a rule nonetheless. Her act is essentially her giving up on sanity, and embracing madness. It’s tragic, but essential. The cop out ending betrays the laws of cause and effect that the entire film follows.

Sometimes I wonder about Americans. Honestly.

‘The Descent’ is nothing short of brilliant, and like the next film on my list, would rank higher if it wasn’t so difficult to watch. Which probably tells you more about me than anything else.

Note: Apologies if I’m repeating anything Jarv has already said in his review (here).

The list so far…

#11 – Unbreakable (2000)

#12 – Best in Show (2000)

#13 – Open Range (2003)

#14 – The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

#15 – Bad Santa (2003)

#16 – The Hurt Locker (2009)

#17 – Where The Wild Things Are (2009)

#18 – Kingdom of Heaven (2005) Directors Cut

#19 – High Fidelity (2000)

#20 – Friday Night Lights (2004)

#21 – Frequency (2000)


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About Judge Droid

In between refining my procrastination skills I talk a lot of shit about movies and such.

116 responses to “Droid defines the Decades best movies – #10 The Descent (2005)”

  1. MORBIUS says :

    Nice review Droid. I echo your feeling about the claustrophobic nature of this film, was very hard for me to watch. Will they release a special edition on DVD where we get the American and European releases together? Hope so, I’d like (if you could call it like, given my aversion as stated above) to see the latter version.

    Also, is there not a planned sequel to this? How would that be possible if everyone died? Maybe all new characters? Wassail…

  2. Jarv says :


    Now this is a proper fucking film.

    Mendoza looks like she’d be titanic in the sack in this film, but certainly not a girl to take home to mother.

    Good review.

    The sequel, Morbius goes like this- Sarah made it out (poxy US ending), and it turns out that Juno is a senators daughter so she is conscripted to lead the rescue attempt.

    It also turns out that Juno isn’t dead.


  3. Jarv says :

    Also, the UK ending was deemed to bleak for American audiences, so the last section of the third act(where Juno has her tendons slashed before Sarah escapes) which has a strange dreamlike quality before the revelation that she’s still in the cave is curtailed and the film stops in the car with the cheap last scare of a dead Juno.

    It’s lame because it removes the ambiguity of the crawler’s existence and as Droid rightly says betrays the theme that’s run through the film of her psychological collapse.

    It’s an utter travesty.

    • Droid says :

      When I first watched it at the cinema I was taken by surprise because I thought she got out. But what I noticed the second time round is the way that when she falls at the end it’s completely dark, and then the sunlight slowly fades in. So it’s obvious her escape is all in her head. It’s a nice touch that was only noticed on the second viewing.

  4. Droid says :

    Jarv, how do you fix these pics again? I tried on the Unberakable review and proceeded to do nothing but fuck it up.

    • Jarv says :

      I would do it using the wordpress CSM.

      Change view from Visual to HTML.

      Find the <img

      It's usually followed by "Class"


      img style= "border:none; background:transparent;"

      you need the spaces- I'm just going to check that HTML code I've given you is correct- I'm a bit rusty with HTML, so I'm going to check on this review if that's OK.

  5. Droid says :

    I’ve actually got no interest in the sequel. I guess I may see it at some point, but it’s a sequel to the shit version, not the real version. And it’s Marshall-less.

  6. Droid says :

    Jarv, have you seen the trailer for Centurion? It seems its a bit of a sword and sandal epic, and not the riveting tale of Shane Watson’s repeated attempts to get out of the nervous nineties which I originally thought.

    Looks pretty good though.

  7. Droid says :

    Huzzah! Pics look better without the shitty borders.

  8. Droid says :

    I’ve already written #9 so I’ll post that up tomorrow.

    Too easy.

    Look at me, Ma! No hands!

  9. Jarv says :

    Look at me, Ma! No hands!

    Last heard by Mrs. Droid after Droid found his puncture repair kit

    • Droid says :

      I was waiting for some sort of attempt at humour. Not a bad effort but the phrasing was a bit off.

      You need to work harder.

      • Jarv says :

        It was originally going to be

        “Last heard at Droid’s house after he was discharged from Hospital having had 2 ribs removed”

        But that fails because it’s an obscure reference, and you can’t talk with your mouth full.

        This fucking laptop is misbehaving something chronic and the screen can’t keep up with my typing speed so my phrasing is all over the place today.

        The cursor stops then about 4 words appear and I have to go back to correct it and I lose the sense of what I’m doing. Our work IT monkey had better have fixed the PC. This is driving me mad.

      • Jarv says :

        See- I even misspelled CMS above.


        This is almost making me miss work.

        Well, I wouldn’t go that far, but it is very irritating.

      • Droid says :

        Maybe something like…

        “Look at me, Ma! No hands!”

        Heard moments after Jarv learned to turkey slap.

      • Droid says :


        “Look at me, Ma! No hands!”

        Jarv gets tea bagged for the first time.

      • Jarv says :

        Look at me, Ma! No hands

        Heard when Droid was doing community work in the amputee wing of St. Bart’s

      • Droid says :

        That ones funny, but I’m not sure what the hell it’s supposed to imply!

      • Droid says :

        Maybe if it was “Look Ma! No hands!” it would work better.

      • Jarv says :

        It implies that you were doing something foul and unspeakable in a ward full of limbless kids in a Children’s hospital.

        On that note:

        Look at me, Ma! No hands

        Heard after Droid picked up a thalidomide child.

        I’m a bit disgusted at myself for that one.

      • Droid says :

        “Look at me, Ma! No hands!”

        Overheard after Hannibal Lecters dentist appointment.

      • Jarv says :

        Fuck it, this could go on forever, with diminishing returns.

        I’ve got my hands on The Descent 2 now (hopefully), so I’m going to watch it and review it today.

      • Jarv says :

        That one was funny.

      • Jarv says :

        Look at me, Ma! grmpghl

        Heard over the phone at Monica Lewinsky’s job interview.

      • Droid says :

        I’m interested to hear if it’s not complete shit.

      • Jarv says :

        It got really good reviews at the time. Which makes me curious, and just enough to outweigh my hatred of the concept.

        This must be catching from Frank- some kind of Monkey flu that affects your brain.

      • Droid says :

        I now just use Frankie as a guinea pig for stuff like that. He seems willing (and able) to sit through some dire shit, so I use that to my advantage. If he comes across something good I usually take his advice.

        ‘Bitch Slap’ is a good example of that.

      • Jarv says :

        He is a sort of canary down a mine.

        The amount of utter tripe he voluntarily inflicts on himself is unreal.

      • Tom_Bando says :

        Heard at Monica’s job interview, in Best Bill Clinton voice: ” Me and Hilary tried that-she said it ‘tastes like chicken'”…

    • Jarv says :

      Look at me, Ma! No hands!

      Heard at Droid’s first visit to a petting zoo

  10. Jarv says :


    Good job on the pictures. The mounting looks good and no drop shadow.

  11. Jarv says :

    If it’s off the front page, I’m not bothering with mine.

    I put pictures in differently to you lot, so the borders aren’t such a disaster for me, as it doesn’t trash layout.

  12. Jarv says :

    That last one was really sick.

  13. Droid says :

    P2 is godawful.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m saying it’s helpful that you watch these flicks. Like Bitch Slap, I just wait for you to seperate the wank from the mint and then I get to watching.

  14. Droid says :

    That’s a golden deuce right there.

  15. Droid says :

    Valentine is utter shit too.

  16. Droid says :

    Has anyone reviewed the Starship Troopers trilogy? I can’t remember…

    • Jarv says :


      I mentioned part 3 in the decade’s best schlock.

      Part 1 is incredible, Part 2 is a bit poo and Part 3 is great fun.

      Droid is bang on. Valentine is atrocious garbage. You only downloaded it because of your think with Buffy Alumnae. delete it.

      Split Second, Frank- that’s the shiznit.

      • Droid says :

        I will admit that the only reason why I watched Valentine is because of the eye candy.

        Isn’t the bloke who played Angel in it?

      • Droid says :

        I haven’t seen Cherry Falls.

        I would never discourage you watching anything, mate. Especially one that I may get a few laughs from your reaction.

  17. Jarv says :



    May, if’s the one I’m thinking of is shit as well- it’s that drivel about the woman who builds a boyfriend out of body parts.

    A really artsy type of frankenstein, as I remember.

  18. Droid says :

    “the Urban Legend guy” is an Aussie. Did pretty much fuck all to get the UL gig. He’s probably dead now.

  19. just pillow talk says :

    A very good write-up Droid. This movie is fucking delightful in a nut crunching sort of way. And I’m not a horror guy either, except for the laughs which is all 98% of horror movies are good for.

    And much like with the current Thing prequel, this sequel does not exist. Fuck ’em.

  20. Droid says :

    Can you review it too?

  21. Jarv says :

    NO you don’t. It’s really dire.

  22. just pillow talk says :

    You’re a revolution just waiting to happen.

  23. Droid says :

    Right. I’m off to have someone make me some delicious Vietnamese stir fry.

  24. Echo the Bunnyman says :

    Great review Droid. I’m wondering if it’s worth taking a stab at the sequel. I’m not sure the effort expended is gonna be worth it.

    Hey, did you lot ever see the trailer for Marshall’s Centurion? It kindof looks like nearly every other recent roman soldier movie, but I was getting a kind of ‘medieval version of The Warriors’ feel.

    After,Doomsday, which looked liked crap but was terrific fun, I’ve been in Marshall’s corner 100%


    • Droid says :

      I mentioned the Centurion trailer above. Looks like fun. I like those kinds of flicks.

      I didn’t like Doomsday.

      Jarvs taking a look at The Descent 2 so I’m going to wait for his opinion before deciding whether to watch it or not.

  25. Jarv says :

    Last bit coming in now.

    I’m off to work soon, but then I’ll come back, assemble it and probably cry at how awful it is,

  26. Hawaiian Organ Donor says :

    OK, I’ve put off watching this because like yourself Droid, I’m not a fan of horror movies. But between you and Jarv singing this one’s praises, I’m going to see if I can find the UK version this weekend and watch it.

  27. koutchboom says :

    Some one mentioned May here, but I can’t seem to find it!

    Well anyways, saw it not too long ago. It was an interesting film. Its got Anna Ferris. Its one of those indy horror flicks. Nothing too gory about it, but the subject matter is gross. I’d say its one of the better ones. It was a lot better then the directors next film The Woods. The Chin withstanding.

  28. koutchboom says :

    Cool I was asking about that movie the other day. I wanted to do a Britney Murphy Tribute.

  29. koutchboom says :

    Ugh, the crawlies for part two look fucking lame.

  30. Droid says :

    Is there a movie that Denise Richards didn’t have a scene in a hottub? If there is I don’t want to know about it.

    She’s a black man’s kryptonite!

  31. Droid says :

    Koutch did you get hold of Tremors 4?

    • koutchboom says :

      Yeah I did. I feel asleep watching the first half last night. When i woke up I thought I had only been asleep for like 20 minutes. It was 6 in the morning, I was like…FUCK. I brought my labtop to work gonna try to watch the rest of it here in a minute.

      • Droid says :

        Ha! I like it.

        “Damn. Didn’t get the chance to watch all of that movie I was supposed to review. Stuff it. I’ll just watch it at work.”

        Sounds like you work at Kruger Industrial Smoothing.

      • Droid says :

        “That sounds like one of those old time car horns! K-UGER!”

        Seinfeld is awesome. You can never watch it too much.

  32. koutchboom says :

    Wow reading about this, there was an ad on the bus that got bombed in the 7/7 bombings in England and made them rethink their whole marketing stradegy.

  33. Jarv says :


    How do you assemble a Rar file?

    I’ve got winzip, but that’s not doing it.

  34. koutchboom says :

    Sweet I’ve managed a set up with my labtop will see how poor Hiram Gummer manages to become a man and save his mine!

  35. koutchboom says :

    Not gonna lie, this is pretty fucking awesome. Work may just be worth while after all.

  36. Jarv says :

    I must be fucking dim. I clicked on one of the files and it knocked them all together. Groovy, thinks I.

    How do I actually open that file- when I clicked on it again it then fucking started compressing the whole thing. Is that what I want to do?

    • Jarv says :

      I didn’t, actually. I opened the file manager thing, and clicked on one of them and they all appeared. Then I clicked on the new file to play it and it started compressing.

  37. Jarv says :

    Christ, man!

    Cherry Falls is even worse. It manages to be boring AND smug.

  38. Jarv says :

    This is so annoying.

    Beer= Fetched
    Spliff= rolled
    Movie= FUCKING EXTRACTING or some such pish.


  39. Jarv says :

    I’m just tempted to write 1000 words about why I hate that it exists and not bother seeing it.

    It was a right bastard to get in English as well.

  40. Jarv says :


    I think I have a result- I tried to open it, but it fucked me with that stupid Windows Media Player not working.

    However, I think the DivX player that I installed yesterday can do it as that has a converter attached,

    However, it tells me it needs another 10 minutes.

    I cannot fucking wait for my PC to come back on Monday

  41. Droid says :

    Dload VLC or Media Player Classic.

    Fuck Windows Media Player right off quick smart. It’s a complete load of shit.

  42. Droid says :

    Spliff= rolled

    I could use one of those bad boys right now.

  43. Jarv says :

    It’s all because the scumbag that I nicked this laptop off (in lieu of payment) couldn’t do anything legit, so he’s got a bent copy of windows xp on it, and when I was updating it Microsoft chucked a benny.

  44. Jarv says :

    Right well, I’ve got a birthday party to go to tonight, so I;m clearly not going to get to watch this today

  45. koutchboom says :

    Also I need to note about this film. I got a copy before it came to the states because I heard it was a good scary movie. Didn’t know it was a monster movie, I thought it was some realistic movie where people get stuck in a cave….color me surprised when you first see the crawlies. One of the best jump scares I’ve ever had. And I like on repeat viewings you can see the crawlies in some of the early scenes.

  46. Jarv says :

    In a fit of temper I’ve deleted WMP off the laptop

    That was surprisingly fulfilling.

  47. Jarv says :


    If i knew that all I had to do was delete WMP, then I’d have done it ages ago

  48. Jarv says :

    Very unimpressed so far.

  49. Jarv says :

    Right. This is wank- it’s the fucking French one that’s easily available.

    It was fecking labelled “English”.


    Also, the beginning is a complete 100% rehash of the first film.

    I’m too pissed off now. I shall try again tomorrow.

  50. Jarv says :

    I’ve found another version. That they promise isn’t French.

    I’ll watch it tomorrow.

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