I would position today’s film as one of the most important to the genre. IMDB even names it the No. 15 film in horror movie history in regards to its importance. And I believe it is important not just because of the innate fear that can be felt from the incredibly claustrophobic and dark scenes, but also because it is an all-female cast. That female-driven story, in this manner, is pretty absent from a genre that is often seen as relatively conservative–not necessarily in the political ideological sense. I also believe this film isn’t widely screened. Despite its pretty strong critical reception, it doesn’t seem to be well-known among viewers outside of the horror fanatics.
“The Descent,” a 2005 powerhouse by Neil Marshall, chronicles a journey of a group of women through tight and drastically dim tunnels. As the women dive deeper, the adversity and fear set in thicker and become increasingly more prominent. For many, this approach to storytelling in the horror genre is what they fear most: the unknown. The set provides that fear for you and the script heightens it. As the women become victims of the predators who stalk them, the feeling of inescapable fear overcomes you as a viewer. The work in this film is incredibly psychological and certainly condemns its viewers to a lasting sense of insecurity. The film also forces physiological response. As the characters become trapped, that is certainly transferred to the viewer. Your heart will race and your lungs will find difficult in expanding. The lack of breath in the set is then conveyed in the same intensity in person.
The film’s use of lighting is arguably what makes it effective. As it plays with the idea of claustrophobia to near perfection, the audience is provided a very daring attempt to tell a story with minimal space to tell it. The use of visuals embedded within the walls of the trapped space add to the overall storytelling. This is another British film, and what is one of the most interesting pieces of that is that the UK release has a different ending that the US release of the film. Both provide a context to an escape, but that escape is also another psychological damnation.
If you hate small spaces or you are afraid of the dark, then prepare not to sleep. Enjoy the tight space.