Grade B+

Six adventure seeking, female friends explore a cave in the Appalachian Mountains for fun and as a way to strengthen the bond among them.  Shauna Macdonald and Natalie Mendoza play the lead roles, the former having lost her husband and young daughter to a car accident, the latter being the natural leader of the group and wanting Macdonald to move on and heal from the tragic accident that occurred one year earlier.

What starts out as a fun adventure will soon become a nightmare as the entrance caves in and the women are trapped in a cave that Mendoza reveals to her friends to be one that has never been explored before, and that no one knows that the women went into this cave.  It is up to them to find a way out…if there is one.   As the women crawl and climb their way throughout the cave, flesh-eating, humanoid creatures are stalking them.  Making matters worse is a secret that Mendoza hides that can tear her friendship with Macdonald apart and reduce their chances for survival.

One of my memorable moments of this movie is the scene when one of the women falls and breaks her leg, and a bone is protruding from her flesh.  Another woman — a doctor — presses the bone back in so that she could put on a splint for the injured woman.   This was the most cringe-inducing scene of the movie.

My most memorable, movie moment of “The Descent” is the scene **SPOILER ALERT** when Mendoza, in a fit of rage and terror as she fights the monsters, hears footsteps behind her and she swings blindly with her climbing axe and hits the neck of one of her friends!  The victim (played by Alex Reid) happens to be my favorite of the group, so yeah, this wasn’t a happy time for me.

The title of this movie can lead audiences to conclude that this is a descent into madness for Macdonald, who never got over the death of her child.  **SPOILER ALERT** This conclusion is reinforced in the unrated version’s ending of Macdonald’s escape out of the mountain to be a dream, and she wakes up still inside the mountain and seeing a vision of her dead daughter.  Macdonald smiles, the camera pulls back, and we see Macdonald alone with no way out, and we hear the monsters closing in.   Were the monsters all in her head and she killed her friends, or were the monsters real and Macdonald’s mind has fallen apart at the end?  I happen to think it’s the latter.  Of course, there is a sequel that answers the real or imaginary question.

“The Descent” is a very good horror movie that not only gives good scares, it has a virtually all female cast that shows women as being physically and mentally strong.  Name one other movie that has these features…I can’t.  I would have given “The Descent” a “Grade A,” but there was a shenanigan I couldn’t let go: the creatures hunt only by sound, and they could not smell their victims — the women — even though they were inches away from them.   A creature that lives in total darkness would have all its other senses heightened, and that would include the sense of smell.

— M