Episode 47. Caved In: The Descent (2005)

The Descent

Andrea and Alex take a deep dive into Neil Marshall’s 2005 contemporary horror classic, examining the intersections of intimacy, adventure, trust and truth. Who will survive, what will be left of them and which ending will they go with?


The Descent. Dir. Neil Marshall, 2005.


Cave Ecosystems: Bones and Baskets – A concise exploration of caves and humanities on going use of them.


Ruthless Reviews – The Descent. A oppositional spin on the film’s depiction of women.


Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema by Laura Mulvey – a seminal text for film analysis that introduced the concept of the male gaze.


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14 thoughts on “Episode 47. Caved In: The Descent (2005)

  1. Amber says:

    I’m very happy that you all covered this film. It is one of my favorites, and I’ve seen it many times. I’ve always felt perplexed that more people in my life don’t LOVE this film. I’m a sucker for horror films that present women as multi-faceted! And scary. I also like how you all explore cave as a character and that you mention because of Sarah’s trauma she sees the creatures first, is more aware of danger perhaps.

    • Aidan says:

      Likewise, I share your confusion that more people don’t adore this movie. I showed it to my ex-gf (she likes horror but her exposure is limited, and she’s as liberal and intersectional a feminist as they come) and I was heartbroken when she said “it was ok.”

  2. Aidan says:

    One of my favorite horror movies period–great episode as usual!

    Also wanted to add that if any budget-conscious listeners can’t afford the price of Laura Mulvey’s work on the male gaze in cinema on Amazon (e-book or paper text), it is available for free as a wonky but still readable pdf:


  3. Åsa says:

    Hi Alex and Andrea! I love your show. Is there any way you would ever do a Fire walk with me episode? That would be so awesome.

  4. Jade says:

    This is awesome. I began listening to your podcast a few months ago as sort of a fun contribution to a horror book project I’m working on (it’s a creative project; not theory), and I really enjoy hearing you have the conversations I wish I could have about horror. I also love all the book and film suggestions you give listeners. I’m not usually one to comment, but I just wanted to say the work you’re doing has been super important to me, and you’ve both introduced some compelling ideas into my work. Keep it up!

  5. Anya says:

    Love the closer look at the film, and the dissection of the characters and their interactions with each other. The “setting as a character” is another angle of some of my fave horror stories, and I’m glad you recognized it in The Descent.

  6. Sean Kelly says:

    After rewatching the film last night, I watched an interview with Neil Marshal on the blu-ray features and it was interesting to learn that the ending was only changed for North America because it tested 10% higher than the longer ending.

  7. Sean Kelly says:

    I’m curious if you were aware of the “blink and you’ll miss it” creature silluette that appears as Sarah is exploring the first large cavern (approx 25 minutes in). I found out about it reading IMDb and I was amazed when I went back to look.

    • Jay says:

      I’ve looked for this many times and can’t see it. When exactly is it? And where? The one after the cave-in I see but not this one.

      • Robyn Elaine Mitchell says:

        It’s around 36 min, when Sarah is shining the torch up, there’s a small silhouette to the right on a ledge – it is gone when she shines it on the same spot. Then there’s a scuttling sound & pebbles fall. It all happens very quickly.

  8. Sam Costello says:

    The Descent is one of my favorite horror movies of the last 15 or 20 years, maybe longer, and one of my favorites to show to unsuspecting friends who are over to see a scary movie. It’s so scary!

    It’s always weird to me that it doesn’t get more respect and love. Maybe a little sexism there?

    My ears perked up when you guys were talking about the opposite of a phallic symbol. This is one of my favorite vocal words learned in college (in a class on horror in literature and film). It’s a yonic symbol: http://web.cn.edu/kwheeler/lit_terms_Y.html. Everyone have fun trying to work that into daily conversation!

  9. Richard says:

    Thanks, as always, for your great work, Professors. This was one of my fav episodes of yours, right up there with the menstruation episode (major props to Ginger Snaps!) and the Silence of the Lambs episode (where you honestly got me to go back to a movie I’d resented a long time and see its strengths). Your differing perspectives, the point about cave as character, the team dynamic–great stuff. I’d like to chime in for the North American ending for two different reasons. One was for how it gave us a Final Girl who didn’t have to be rescued by the patriarchy–Sarah gets herself out and doesn’t have to get saved by a male authority figure. Seems the only hint of any patriarchy is possibly the dick truckdriver who blasts their horn at her when she pulls off to the side of the road. (It was also what immediately annoyed me about the sequel in changing Sarah to the screaming woman who has to get saved by the random driver in the woods, not to mention that fucking ending.) Second, I must admit I was intrigued by the idea that Sarah killed a child Crawler and its mother, watched some of her best friends die, got trapped in a tunnel, etc., and her lingering trauma revolves around Juno. (Another sour note about the sequel–I like the idea of Juno surviving and the two of them teaming up, despite their past, but the movie handled it so poorly and in such a trite manner–a couple of Ripleys flaming the shit out of the hive, on the other hand? I coulda bought into that!) Thanks again for a great and inspired episode!

  10. love_rob says:

    There is a lot I like about the descent, and there is a lot of good in there. There are a couple of things in there that don’t feel right to me though.

    I don’t know why Beth would have felt that telling Sarah that Juno killed her and couldn’t be trusted was the best use of her little remaining time. Granted, I’ve never been dying on the floor of a cave.

    When Sarah spikes Juno in the leg I lose connection in the film. I don’t see how what Juno does warrants that level of betrayal. Especially after Juno fights so hard to find and rescue Sarah. I feel like the film wants me to feel triumphant about Sarah’s escape and then reverse that with the realization she’s still in the cave (though I’m not a fan of that storytelling trope), but after the does so wrong (in my opinion) by Juno I don’t think it has the same impact.

    Juno is definitely flawed, but I think I identify most with her character.

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