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The Descent (2005)
Writer and director: Neil Marshall

review by Christopher Teague

Neil Marshall burst onto the genre cinema screen with aplomb and gusto, not too mention copious amounts of blood, in the werewolves versus soldiers in Scotland shocker, Dog Soldiers.

With The Descent, Marshall as matured has a filmmaker but in doing so the film has a lost a little of the fun from his debut. That's not to say this is bad - far from it, it stands head and shoulders above many of the so-called horror films produced by our American cousins over the last few years - but where The Descent lacks is in the fact that it doesn't have that group dynamic, that wonderful ensemble cast that worked so brilliantly well in Dog Soldiers.

The Descent concerns an all-female group of cavers traversing an hitherto unknown network of underground tunnels and caverns. Within the group, Sarah still hasn't come to terms with the loss of her husband and child (an opening sequence that is flawlessly executed), though she suspects her husband was having an affair with Juno. It's when they become hopelessly lost, friendships and loyalty become frayed... a situation not helped by movement within the shadows...

Where the film lacks, it succeeds though scares and tension: Neil Marshall engineers each and every set-piece for maximum effect, and is aided with superb make-up effects from Stuart Conran and his team. Even though the group dynamic isn't has strong as his debut, the individual actresses themselves are excellent, particular Shauna MacDonald as Sarah and Natalie Jackson Mendoza as Juno.

There are some genuinely disturbing and slatteriffic moments, and the setting is perfect for that sense of loneliness and claustrophobia, enhanced by director of photography Sam MacCurdy who lights the caves just enough to feel safe yet you know that beyond into the darkness evil lurks.

For a second feature this is just another notch for Marshall's talent as a serious and incredibly talented British director, who I hope will be given more scope and budget for his next feature - Guy Ritchie had his chance, time to let someone else take the mantle as the best new British director.
The Descent

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