Yesterday I watched The Descent, a British horror film about a group of female explorers who become trapped during an exploration in underground caves, one year after Sarah, a member and the protagonist, lost her husband and daughter in a motor accident. Adding to their plight is a race of blood-thirsty, cannibalistic savages, whom they must fight to survive.
Eventually it becomes apparent that the whole expedition is a metaphor of Sarah’s efforts to come to terms with the loss of her loved ones, and the affair between her husband and Juno, another member of the group. The “descent” here is arguably a psychological journey into the darkness of her inner self, to find a way out of the spite, grief and other emotions that have gripped her since that tragic day one year ago. The film ends without telling us her fate. However, by leaving a maimed Juno to the savages and having an imagined reunion with her daughter, she has at last freed herself and found peace, regardless of whether she survives.
Likewise, it can be said the savages are actually Sarah’s own inner demons. By killing the savages, she is able to redeem herself. One commentor on Imdb has a rather bizarre theory that the savages are actually Sarah’s hallucinations and that she has killed the whole group, though that may be an over-analysis.
The film is atmospheric and intense, with many brilliant scares (the night-vision scene is particularly effective). But I feel most strongly about the part in which they crawl through tunnels so tight that only one person can (barely) squeeze through each time. The claustrophobic atmosphere is suffocating, but it does visualize the helplessness and despair when one is trapped by preoccupations and obsessions.
The film seems to suggest the human mind is a dark, mysterious labyrinth with dangers lurking. If I dig deeper into my own, what monsters await?