The basic premise is that a group of women go spelunking, and find themselves in grave danger (or, in danger of a grave) from a cave-in, followed by the presence of mysterious subterranean creatures who seek to make a meal of them.
This was not what I would deem a “b” movie, though it might appear to be so at first glance. It is within the horror genre, but leaning heavily toward thriller/suspense, as any gore or violence is not merely gratuitous but integral to the plot.
There are spoilers in this review, so if you don’t want to know these details, stop reading, watch the movie and return here to see if you agree with my assessment, or offer your own. (Comments welcome).
I won’t belabor this review with details of actress names or character names, and just cut to the chase, except when needed for clarity. There was some initial character development with the women, and past tragedies which figured into part of the plot, so I was please d to see this aspect. The British actresses were all good, and few things are hotter than a tough, beautiful woman with an accent. I’m sure that was for the benefit of straight males and lesbians. I must offer my thanks, since I am a member of one of those groups.
With proper foreshadowing that caves are pitch black and can play tricks on the mind, the Juno character admonishes the others to remember that they might see things that aren’t there, become disoriented, or have other adverse reactions. Once the women have hiked to the cave, and descended into the abyss of it to explore, they traverse various tunnels and crawlspaces until there is a sudden cave-in which blocks their escape the way they came in. At this point, it comes to light that the leader of the women (Juno) had taken them to a cave other than the one they thought they were in. There was no map to refer to for an alternate exit, as the cave had not been explored and she wanted them all to be the first to do so, and have the honor of conquering it and naming it. Thus, they are in a pickle, and Juno is not quite their favorite person anymore. They resolve to move ahead and seek a route out of the cave, as they cannot remain where they are without suffocating or risking another cave-in.
sidebar: I was already chewing my nails up to this point because I had to watch these women wriggle through these tiny tunnels the size of a paper towel tube–okay, not that small, but suffice to say, this inspired great phobic shivers in me. This is the last thing in the world I would do “for fun.” I’d sooner perform an appendectomy on myself with a spoon. One of the women got stuck, and panicked just before the cave-in, and that would have been my reaction. Panic. First, I would not have crawled in that tunnel if I had the leas t propensity to panic in confined spaces. Which I do. So I wouldn’t do it to begin with. I would not have rappelled into the cave either. I would not have gone on the trip at all. But if for some mistaken reason I did go on that expedition, I would have taken one look at those tiny tunnels and said. “I’ll be up-top at the campsite, sucking on my electronic cigarette. See you later.” Then I would have climbed my frantic ass back up to open air. So anyway, it did make me wonder why the writer had that character there in the first place. I guess for extra tension, so she could freak out. IF that character were me, it would not be for extra tension, it would have been for comic relief. I’ve been laughed at frequently for my responses to uncomfortable situations.
Anyway. I was already freaked out and expecting the tension to increase, because I hadn’t yet seen any monsters and I knew they were just around a rocky corner. This was accurate. Juno warned the others to be mindful (mine-full?) that their batteries were going to run out in the flashlights at some point, and they needed to make haste to find an exit from the cave.
Sidebar: if I were going spelunking, I would not rely on the batteries of a flashlight. I would have invented an illumination device that ran on human fear. That visibility would have been celestial. Like a Hollywood Searchlight, or a Supernova. A Quasar, even. Barring that, I would have brought several of those crank-up flashlights that don’t rely on batteries, but on manual turning of a handle. I would have just walked through those caverns, cranking like an organ grinder’s monkey. (Wikipedia defines “Organ Grinder” well, but adds, “The grinder would crank his organ in a public place…” I’m not sure I should align myself with something like that, but I was just trying to make a point.).
Back to The Descent: Shortly, one of the women was squinting into the darkness with her paltry flashlight, sure she was seeing a strange man lurking there. Any man who would be down there would naturally be strange. Her friends, of course, told her that her mind was playing tricks on her. I’m sure I’m not the only viewer who knew better, and yelled at the TV “She is NOT imagining the man in the dark! And it isn’t a man!” The woman who saw the creature said that maybe he could help them get out. Yeah. In the stomachs of subterranean monkey-men (there’s that monkey reference again..although these creatures were pale, I wouldn’t label them White-Headed Capuchins.).
Sidebar: I think I just might have been more frightened by the idea of me being trapped in one of those paper-towel-tube tunnels, than by the subterranean humanoids…at least I could have some control over fighting them. And just like the flashlight issue, I would not be reduced to only pick axes. I would have brought an M-16, some tasers, blasting caps, and a machete. Throwing battery acid on them wouldn’t have worked, because the fuckers were already blind, having adapted to living underground through some corrupted evolutionary process. (Perhaps the first humans to explore the cave evolved into these creatures…mmm…sequel).
Anyway, if you’re stuck in a tunnel, you’re stuck. And if there’s a cave-in, you’re stuck and squished. But if you have weapons and can move, there’s a much better chance of survival. I’d rather go out in hand-to-hand combat, than being crushed in between a rock and a hard place.
One problem I had with the movie, like so many of its kind, is that it seems to be filmed too dark. My friend told me she saw all the details I missed. But she has a plasma TV. I reminded her that not everyone has a fancy-schmancy plasma TV, and they ought to make films for people like me, who can’t throw their money around….Most of what I saw in this movie was figures with flashlights moving in the dark, and what I heard was screaming, and echo-location clicking, heavy breathing and grunting, slurping, and gnawing sounds. I might have to watch the movie again after I adjust the contrast on my television.
My first thought, after the movie ended, was that I would love to see a sequel about what took place after the horror of what happened is shared with proper authorities and a special investigations team returns to that cave to gather information. All kinds of possibilities there.
So, Overall, I would rate this film highly, if you enjoy movies that keep you mercilessly pinned down until it’s over, while periodically shivering and choking on your soda and spewing popcorn.
UPDATE: okay, I looked at it again with adjusted settings on my not-a-plasma-TV TV, and I saw things I wish I hadn’t seen. The movie is even scarier if you can actually see what’s happening. Maybe I’m better off without a Plasma TV.