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The Descent

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

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 11 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 29 reviews

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 bywonder dove October 18, 2012

Ultra Chilling!!!

The Descent is a one of a kind British horror film! Very eerie and intense, the music used throughout really sets a sort of depressing atmosphere. It's on... Continue reading
Adult Written bycallofduty5 August 17, 2010
Pretty scary and violent in my opinion. Good storyline and violence and characters werent bad so if u got kids of 14-15 you should buy this for them for bday pr... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bySecretAgentPalin May 15, 2011

A must see for horror fans.

It starts very slow, although there is a violent image at the beginning. When they start exploring the cave, things get crazy. This movie is NOT for the squeami... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byerick112 February 19, 2009

a must see for horror fans

i saw it in the theater with my dad the first day it opened and both for us were amazed. finally a horror movie that is not a remake and is the perfect horror m... Continue reading

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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