A few things to say about The Descent, the mostly terrific Brit horror film by Neil Marshall.

a) He knows what he thinks is scary and he sticks to it. Mainly he thinks quickly stabbing people in the eye is scary. He is of course right.

b) Initially it seemed that having an all female group would neatly sidestep the “Last girl” phenomenon of horror movies, where it is easy to spot which one will survive. Unfortunately from minute one we have a character given much more backstory than the rest so we know that she might at least stick around longer.

c) That said, Marshall is a dab hand at knocking up tiny bits of characterisation to make you like the other characters, and knows that killing off sympathetic ones can really hurt.

d) I jumped much more at this than any film in quite some time.

e) Is the ending disappointing? Initially yes. Later not so much. But I wonder how much control Marshall had over it. (I would imagine a lot). There are interesting ambiguities, but perhaps too many.

f) Less is more sometimes in scripts, and here a few well acted hints go a long way.

g) He should have stuck to his guns, and made it a worthy counterpoint to The Thing. With the exception of the opening sequence, this is a horror movie without any men in it at all.

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