When film reviewers wrote about The Descent (Neil Marshall, 2005) during its U.S. theatrical release in August 2006, many displayed an interesting contradiction. They often praised the film for departing from hypersexualized depictions of its women protagonists, but then used sexualized language in their reviews to describe the actors. In some instances, reviewers interpreted the imagery in The Descent as objectification, leaning into their expectations of the genre.
When I watch the film, I don’t see objectification. I see the filmmakers nodding to objectifying tropes in the horror genre, but not actually participating in them. The characters are photographed (by cinematographer Sam McCurdy) like athletes. The imagery invites us into their adrenaline and emotions rather than inviting us to ogle.
In this video, I highlight this tension between film review and representation, but The Descent is such a carefully crafted film that I didn’t want to only look at that. Neil Marshall, Sam McCurdy, and the rest of the film’s visual team thoughtfully use darkness, selective illumination, and color themes to explore grief and friendship and to take us on a journey into the depths of the unknown.
See The Descent in a double feature with Kill List (Ben Wheatley, 2011) on Friday, October 28, at 11 pm.
Laura Ivins loves stop motion, home movies, imperfect films, nature hikes, and Stephen Crane’s poetry. She has a PhD from Indiana University and an MFA from Boston University. In addition to watching and writing about movies, sometimes she also makes them.