It’s funny how much of a difference one bold casting choice can make. Originally intended to be a mixed-gender cast, the decision to make this film all-female immediately made it stand out from its contemporaries, and gave what is otherwise a pretty standard low-budget horror flick a lick of fresh paint. The relationships between the characters suddenly move away from the usual cliches this kind of film relies on, and themes of sisterhood or motherhood make for a refreshing change. The rest of the film is the usual “killed off one by one by monsters” stuff, so while it might not break new ground in every area, at least it tries.

There’s something to be said for the excellent production design as well – not a single real cave was used, for safety reasons, but at no point does anything look remotely like a set. And it has a bold, downbeat ending (initially removed from the American cut), that matches its heavily allegorical ideas – the title is pretty obviously figurative as well as literal, and there’s a quite explicit “re-birth” scene. Some nice work is done to make the creatures more than just boogeymen too, there are hints of an ecosystem with some thought put into it rather than just nonsensical scares. But overall this is a pretty generic horror staple made more interesting by addressing the gaping gender gap in women’s representation onscreen.

THE DESCENT
Hey, an all-female cast! What a revolutionary idea...9
Standard horror movie "and then there were none" structure4
Inventive use of set design and some impressive visuals8
Some decent attempts at world-building7
The original downbeat ending, rather than the American cut9
Bechdel Test Passes
  • Features more than one named female character
  • The female characters talk to each other
  • They talk about something other than men
Bechdel Test Failures
  • n/a
7Overall Score

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