The Descent Neil Marshall

I wouldn’t say that this British shocker breaks new ground for horror, but it’s a nice return to the time when the genre actually meant fear and not merely sadism.

Shauna Macdonald plays a young mother whose husband and daughter have died in a car accident. Traumatised by the incident, she begrudgingly agrees to go on a spelunking expedition led by an arrogant Natalie Mendoza. Alas, they drop into an uncharted group of caves and soon find themselves lost, though that’s the least of their problems when some blind and vicious cave dwellers start to stalk them.

It’s spam-in-a-cavern this time, though the actresses are less the mindless idiots of slasher yore and genuinely individuated characters. In fact, it’s strange to see so many un-wussy women inhabiting a genre movie. Of course, that’s all out the window once people start getting eaten and director Neil Marshall directs the carnage with a little bit of subtlety, if not an abundance of style.

Though it features the same shrieking orchestral score you’ve been hearing since Aliens, the film is about giving you the creeps and making you jump, and to this end it acquits itself admirably, besting the tsunami of remake horror knockoffs and sadism parades. Though it’s not an original vision, it’s still a solid and-then-there-were-none narrative with some nicely designed creatures and just enough credibility to string you along until the end.

Though I groaned at the "surprise” coda, I was held by the movie even before the monsters showed up, a lengthy but gripping period that builds the tension to a fairly punchy climax. Expect nothing and be surprised. (Maple)