By all account, THE DESCENT is a companion piece to Neil Marshall's 2002
horror feature
DOG SOLDIERS (which I admit I haven't seen). DOG SOLDIERS
centered on a group of six soldiers in Scotland who must do battle against
THE DESCENT focuses on a group of six adventure-loving women
who go spelunking and meet up with something quite unexpected.

I tend to try to avoid spilling too much of the plot in the case of
films that rely on twists or turns to startle the audience. In a nutshell,
THE DESCENT begins with several women on a white water rafting expedition
in Scotland. Afterwards, one of them, Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) experiences
a personal tragedy that is well staged by director Marshall. A year later,
still haunted by that accident, she reluctantly agrees to travel to America
to meet up with five other women to go caving in the Appalachian Mountains.
The motley crew of females include de facto leader Juno (Natalie Mendoza),
Sarah's pal, English teacher Beth (Alex Reid), tough Irish chick Holly (Nora-Jane
Moore) and half-sisters Rebecca (Saskia Mulder) and Sam (Myanna Buring). The
latter is a medical student and this being a horror film, you just have to know
that she'll get to put her expertise and education to good use.

The sextet set out for their expedition but unbeknownst to them, Juno
has decided that the originally agreed upon caves are "too easy" and has
directed them to a system that is not on the maps. Of course, things
go awry -- the women get trapped underground and must make their way
through tight tunnels and crevices to find a way out. While there are some
dizzyingly well staged sequences as they travel through the underground
system, it soon becomes clear that they are not alone. And that's when
the film turns. To say more would ruin the scares and surprises.

Marshall guides his game cast through their paces and it's refreshing
to see a group of women as heroines as opposed to the timid victims of
some other entries in the genre. By playing with these conventions, Marshall
gets mileage from typical sequences and scenes. The actresses all do good
work, with Macdonald and Mendoza coming off best in what amount to the         
leading roles. Along the way, Marshall manages to pay homage to a variety of
genre films including

THE DESCENT contains more than a few jolts and scares. It's a perfect
popcorn movie for the dog days of summer.

        Rating:               B
        MPAA Rating:       R for strong violence/gore and language
        Running time:      99 mins.

                   Viewed at the Broadway Screening Room
The Descent
©  2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.