The Descent is a 2005 movie that deals with what happens when a group of women, all old friends, get together to do a spot of caving in the wilds of North Carolina’s Appalachian Mountains, and become the victims of savage, cannibalistic humanoids that lurk deep underground.
Given the fact there are suspicions that Bigfoot’s uncanny ability to elude us on almost every occasion is due to it being a creature which may spend most of its time living in caverns and caves, The Descent is a movie that Bigfoot enthusiasts should watch and think about carefully. There may be more truth in it than anyone might guess.
Although the movie is set in North Carolina, all of the filming occurred in the U.K.: the exterior, wooded shots were filmed at Ashridge Park, Buckinghamshire (known locally as Ashridge Forest), while the caves were actually skillfully created fabrications, put together in Pinewood Studios, London.
The movie begins in traumatic and unforeseen fashion: Sarah (actress Shauna Macdonald) is the only survivor of a violent, head-on collision that kills her daughter and husband. Around twelve months later, Sarah, still severely affected and traumatized by what happened, meets up with her closest friends: Sam (MyAnna Buring), Beth (Alex Reid), Juno (Natalie Mendoza), Rebecca (Saskia Mulder), in the Appalachians. Also along is a friend of Juno: Holly (Nora-Jane Noone).
The group is keen to explore a particular, deep cave that has been discovered, and which few people know about. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work out like that. Unknown to the rest of the girls, Juno has decided to have them investigate a completely unknown cave system that – literally – no-one knows about. That, in itself, would not be a problem, except for one thing: when there is a tunnel collapse, which leaves the six trapped, and Holly breaks a leg, they have no way to contact anyone in the outside world to tell them where, exactly, they are.
In mere moments, what should have been a fun, adventurous time in the ancient, shadowy caves and caverns that extend deep underground, becomes a fight for survival. It’s not just the rigors of Mother Nature that the six have to combat. In quick time, it becomes clear that the friends are not alone. They are being stalked and hunted by something terrifying. We are treated and tantalized by fleeting glimpses of vaguely human-looking creatures that are super-agile and charge around the tunnels in crazed fashion. The monsters have only one thing on their minds: turning the girls into their next meals.
The danger that one and all is in becomes very apparent when all manner of bones – human and animal – are found piled high and wide in the tunnels. Terrible and savage screams and growls echo around the pitch black chambers. Finally, we get to see the monstrous things: they are human-like, but clearly not of the Homo Sapiens variety. And they are very partial to human meat.
Thus, a battle begins between the friends – whose relationships fracture, splinter, and practically disintegrate as the fight for survival takes its unrelenting hold on one and all. Unlike so many of today’s watered down horror movies – that feel the need to provide some sense of hope for the characters and a degree of a happy ending - The Descent does nothing of the sort. It demonstrates that when we are far away from civilization and our technologies, we are not the superior beings we arrogantly assume ourselves to be. We’re breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and all rolled into one.
In some respects, the creatures are not unlike the Morlocks of H.G. Wells’ acclaimed novel of 1895, The Time Machine. In Wells’ story the chief character, rather surprisingly, is never named: he is simply referred to as the “time traveler.” He constructs a machine, as the book’s title suggests, to travel through time. He achieves this, finally ending up in England in the year 802,701.
The world of the distant future is not a good one: nuclear war in the distant past – but in the future of the time traveler, who lives in Victorian England – has ravaged the planet. The Human Race has been reduced to two types of being: the Eloi, who look just like us, but who live passive, simple lives, lacking any kind of drive or ambition, and who inhabit a jungle environment. Then there are the Morlocks: large, muscular, hairy ape-men that live deep underground and who, essentially, breed the Eloi like cattle. The Eloi, then, are the Morlocks’ food.
Both The Descent and The Time Machine are fiction. Bigfoot is not. Perhaps it really is a cave-dwelling creature, one that is rarely seen because, quite simply, it hardly ever surfaces from its massive network of underground lairs. If so, let’s hope that if we one day stumble on the labyrinthine abodes of Bigfoot, they are not strewn with the bones of thousands of missing people, in the style of The Descent.