Garrett Smith’s review published on Letterboxd:
Listen to our full discussion of THE DESCENT on our podcast, I Like To Movie Movie.
This might be the horror movie that started my late-stage horror obsession. I grew up on The Shining and Halloween but mostly avoided horror most of my young life. Then in my senior year of high school a buddy of mine basically forced me to see this with him and I'll never forget the theater experience of this. I was terrified from start to finish and had no idea it would go to the places it went, and there's one (at this point rather famous) moment in particular that made the entire crowd leap out of their seats, which I've yet to experience again. It's just such an effective piece of genre cinema and it ignited a desire in me for more movies that made me feel like that and could affect a whole audience.
I love the way this movie is shot and lit. No other movie looks like this, and there's some truly iconic, incredible shots that live up to my memory of them. It's so tense and claustrophobic throughout - so much so that the first hour is honestly more terrifying than the finale. That's not meant to be a knock on the finale, my favorite part of the movie, it's just that the tension of the hour leading up to it is all released once we reach "the feeding ground". The spaces get a bit more open and we're no longer "alone". I think that's kind of an incredible achievement, to make what happens in the end feel like relief of a kind.
An episode of our podcast, I Like To Movie Movie, will drop in a couple weeks and I'll link to it here when it does - we discuss both the UK and US endings and how the very minor difference between them makes a major difference to how one might read this movie. With the US ending we focused on cycles of grief, where with the UK ending we focused more on the plot, the mystery of what actually happened. While many people prefer the UK ending, and I can definitely see and appreciate why, I really think I prefer the US ending in that it does give the movie some thematic weight and emotional impact.
I also love this cast and wish we saw more of them in movies today. They bring so much to these roles, and the movie gains so much from the personal tensions they bring into the situational tension.
I <3 Beth and her pajamas.