KAYLEIGH MARIE EDWARD reveals some interesting facts about Neil Marshall’s 2005 horror, The Descent
The Descent is now 11 years old and still going strong as one of the most popular British horror films in recent memory. It’s about Sarah, a woman who lost her family in a tragic accident, and her group of friends, who go on a caving expedition. It’s not long before they realise that they are not alone in the dark…
Here are 10 fun facts that you might not know about this claustrophobic creep-fest (warning, contains spoilers):
- Director Neil Marshall cited John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Tobe Hooper, 1974), and Deliverance (John Boorman, 1972) as influences in establishing the tone of the film, and it shows. Combine the terror of claustrophobia, being hunted, and classic paranoia, and you have the making of a perfect horror.
- In the American release, the last minute of the film is cut so that the ending is more ‘optimistic’. In the original British release, the film ends with Sarah escaping, but then waking up back in the cave. Thus, her escape is merely a dream, and the film ends on a shot of Sarah hallucinating the image of her daughter, whilst the monsters close in. This ending didn’t sit well with American test-audiences, and it was altered so that Sarah simply escapes. You have to wonder what that says about us in Britain… we were quite satisfied with the doom and gloom finale!
- The creatures in the film are called ‘Crawlers’, and Marshall describes them as ‘evolved cavemen’. He wanted the audience to know that the monsters are a subset, if you will, of the human race, believing that would be scarier than making them something alien. The Crawlers are men, women, and children, all living together as a colony, just like the rest of us do.
- Originally, the cast was supposed to be a male/female mixture. However, Marshall noticed that there are hardly any female-exclusive horror casts, and changed his mind. To avoid stereotyping the characters, he solicited advice from female friends about what they might discuss and how they might behave under the circumstances.
- The film is set in North America but is filmed entirely in the UK. Filming inside real caves was deemed too dangerous and too time-consuming, so an interior cave set was built at Pinewood studios, near London, where all interior scenes took place. Six cave sets were built, in total.
- There’s a fan theory that Sarah lost her mind in the cave, imagined the Crawlers, and killed all of her friends herself. Marshall even explained that he filmed, but cut out, a dark shot of a Crawler-like figure in the hospital nightmare sequence near the beginning of the film when Sarah wakes up and is running through the corridors. However, the sequel firmly enforces that the Crawlers are real.
- The Crawlers were played by professional actors, rather than by stunt people, because Marshall wanted them each to have their own character and personality. One of them, the most heavily featured, even has a name – Scar, and was played by Craig Conway (known for Dog Soldiers, Prey, and The Aliens, amongst many more).
- Authenticity was very important to Marshall during the making of the film, especially when it came to the actors playing fear. To enhance this, the actors playing the cave explorers were kept separate from the actors playing the Crawlers, even during lunch. Additionally, none of the main cast saw the Crawlers until they’re first introduced in the film – so the women saw them for the first time when the audience did. This led to genuine fear responses, with some of the cast even screaming and running off set!
- There’s a scene in the film where Sarah falls into what appears to be a cave wasteland of bones (human and animal). In the film, this is where the Crawlers leave the remains of those they have hunted. Amongst the bones is a wolf skull, taken from Neil Marshall’s werewolf film, Dog Soldiers.
- And finally, my favourite fun fact – the vampire connection. I have a theory that every actor in the world can be traced back to on-screen vampires, so here is how each of our six main cast are linked to our favourite toothy monsters:
- MyAnna Buring, who plays Sam, also plays the vampire Tanya Denali in the Twilight films (Breaking Dawn Part 1 and Part 2).
- Saskia Mulder, who plays Rebecca, also appears in ‘Vampirology’, which is an episode of a show called Urban Gothic. The episode is about a documentary film crew who follow a vampire called Rex, and Mulder portrays the character of ‘French Girl’.
- Shauna Macdonald, who plays Sarah, returned in The Descent 2, along with Douglas Hodge, who is also in a show called Penny Dreadful, in which there are vampires.
- Nora-Jane Noone, who plays Holly, appeared in the series, Day of the Triffids, as did Eddie Izzard. Izzard plays Gustav van Wangenheim in the film Shadow of the Vampire.
- Natalie Mendoza, who plays Juno, appears in Moulin Rouge as ‘China Doll’. This film stars Ewan McGregor, who also appeared in Black Hawk Down, with Josh Hartnett. Hartnett starred in the fantastic vampire film 30 Days of Night.
- And last but not least, my favourite vampire connection from The Descent goes to Alex Reid, who plays Beth. Reid appears in the show Misfits, alongside Robert Sheehan, who was in a film called Season of the Witch. Amongst the cast of Season of the Witch is the legend, the King of Vampires, and perhaps the world’s most beloved Dracula actor – Christopher Lee.
- So there you have it, 10 Fun Facts about one of Britain’s most beloved modern horrors, The Descent.