The Descent

Movie review by
Cynthia Fuchs, Common Sense Media
The Descent Movie Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
A scary gorefest underground. Not for kids.
  • R
  • 2006
  • 99 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 14 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 37 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Some of the women courageously look out for each other; some are selfish, tricky, and fearful.


Brutal, grisly violence inflicted on and by women cave-climbers: Images include dismembering, penetrations, crushed heads and chests.


Mostly unspoken tension concerning a husband who cheats on his wife with her best friend.


Plenty of f-words, increasing as the women go deeper into the cave, as well as other obscenities.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters smoke a couple of cigarettes and drink beers the night before the descent.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the violence in the movie is visceral and bloody. A car accident puts spikes through a character's head (visible from the rear) and kills a child (off-screen). Once inside the very small-spaced cave, the women argue and show fear (in alarming scenes conveying subjective states). The monsters are gruesome, both pasty and slimy, as well as vicious. Some characters lie to each other, but the reasons are more complicated than in most horror films.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byMadisonDeveau February 11, 2019


I’ve always been able to stomach blood but something about this was a little disturbing, not really the amount of blood but the way it looked and how the scenes... Continue reading
Parent Written byAaron C. September 10, 2020

Claustrophobic Horror Masterpiece

The descent is a masterclass movie, that slowly makes the charecters in the movie, as well as the audience descent into horrific madness. Extreme gorefest, to t... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bypillowduck June 1, 2021

The Descent has cool creatures, and is very claustrophobic.

The atmosphere of the caves are very cool, and the ending is neat. However, the characters are dry and the movie tends to get a bit boring. At one point I didn... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byCATZCAN200M8 April 24, 2021

What's the story?

In the beginning of THE DESCENT, Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) is an athletic, good-natured wife, mom, and best friend to whitewater rafting buddies Juno (Natalie Mendoza) and Beth (Alex Reid). Within minutes, however, that life is over, as a car accident leaves Sarah alone and traumatized. A year later, Sarah's girlfriends convince her to join them cave-exploring in the Appalachian Mountains, to help her recover from her loss. The spelunking group includes spunky-punky Holly (Nora-Jane Noone) and goodhearted sisters Rebecca (Saskia Mulder) and Sam (MyAnna Buring). When a tunnel cave-in blocks their way out and Sarah seems to be haunted by her daughter's voice, the group begins to worry; things get worse when they're confronted by monsters deep in the darkness. Soon, the adventurers are fighting for their lives against "crawlers," blind, gnarly creatures with fearsome teeth and very bendable backbones.

Is it any good?

Equal parts yucky, scary, and delirious, The Descent is also clever about its limits, and chilling in its effects. It sets up a specific emotional situation for its protagonist, then turns it inside out, with the help of especially daunting monsters. Suddenly, Sarah can no longer be focused only on her own despair, but must face the worst external threats imaginable.


While the plot is straightforward and eventually predictable -- women in a terrible place get scared, get assaulted in terrible ways, and get tough -- the film is also about trust and betrayal, as well as surprising sources of strength. Exaggerating the usual horror movie gambit, the movie invites you to reconsider genre-based expectations. Sarah finds in herself an unexpected ferocity and an almost frightening determination to endure. What's smart about the movie is that it makes her survival costly. While she's relieved to be alive, she's also horrified by her own change.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the sense of loss embodied by Sarah, whose family dies in a car crash before the main action. How are the women's friendships tested by their increasing horrific circumstances? They could also talk about the popularity of horror movies: Why do we love to be scared? Does this one break any new ground in the genre?

Movie details

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