(2005)4Jeremy WheelerA bloody great achievement in pure terror, Neil Marshall's British pulse-pounder The Descent is a terrifying journey into madness that will leave even the most hardened horror veterans shaken to their cores and loving every minute of it. Boldly sporting an all-female cast, the fright flick sidesteps genre stereotypes and throws this particularly gifted ensemble group through the darkest reaches of hell, where there's zero light and little chance for hope. The frights themselves range from nail-biting thrills to extreme blood-curdling shocks that escalate in pure ferocity as the viewer is trapped in an unrelenting exercise in fear. While his peers tend to concern themselves with continually ripping off David Fincher's flash and grime (à la Seven), here Marshall turns his inspiration toward Alien and The Shining, with a bit of Deliverance added in for good measure. While he's admitted this fact in public arenas, these particular similarities are unmistakable and their influence on the film is evidenced in every second of this unique monster flick. Thanks to its heightened sense of claustrophobia and desperate human drama that ratchets up the first half of the picture, the director proves that he's learned what it takes to thoroughly engross an audience and then scare the living hell out of them. With fine casting and pristine makeup work complimenting the ingenious production design and stark cinematography, the film is a home run on all sides of production and sets the bar for small-budgeted indie shockers (the budget ended up only being around six million dollars). Modern horror films don't even begin to match what The Descent has in store for its viewers -- which is a good thing, because one wouldn't want it to get any better than this.