Who are the main characters in The Descent?
How are the females represented overall?
What sub genre of horror does The Descent fall
LOCATION AND SARAH
The caverns themselves are intertwined with Sarah’s
development as a character, pushing her and
becoming part of her as she moves through the
Each transition in her character is signalled by a
‘birth’ from the caverns
These ‘births’ allow Sarah to transition into
something ‘other’. A monstrous feminine and
The first of Sarah’s births occurs as they descend
deeper into the caves. Sarah becomes stuck and is
pulled screaming from the tight space into the
This first ‘birth’ signals the change in space in the
cave and in Sarah’s role within it placing her as
traumatised survivor rather than explorer.
Watch this scene.
How do Sarah’s actions here differ from her actions previously
in the film?
How do Sarah’s actions differ from others in her group?
BIRTH OF MODERN
PRIMITIVEThis scene marks a change in Sarah’s character, shifting her
from traumatised woman into a primitive one
At the start of this sequence
Sarah has already engaged in
the most vital of actions for a
primitive, the creation of fire.
This is in direct contrast to her
friends who remain using their
modern flares and neon glow sticks.
She then takes part in her
second primitive action,
unarmed combat, killing a
child ‘crawler’ and in turn
During this fight Sarah is stripped of
her climbing equipment and modern
utilities, further pushing her towards
a role as a primitive
Rather than the axes and
modern tools used by Juno,
Sarah is forced to use bone
tools to defend herself using
a piece of antler to kill the
woman whilst using a bone
club to defeat the male
PRIMITIVEHer scream marks her change into a
primitive, echoing throughout the cave
Her friends mistake this for the
screams of the crawlers further
cementing her transition from modern
to primitive for the audience.
Although this scene is clearly
empowering it can also be interpreted
as “a masculine fantasy in which the
feminine is constituted as horrific”
This scene marks the point where Sarah
assumes the masculine role in the film,
her muscular body drenched in blood
and her violent acts allow her to cross
She has defeated the monster herself,
defying societies status quo and therefore
has become the monster herself.
Sarah’s final birth should
be one that allows her to
As she pulls herself free
from the cave, breaking out
from its symbolic ‘crotch’
formed by the roots a tree
she gasps and screams.
Unable to speak or
comprehend her trauma
she attempts to drive away,
only to be transported back
to the cave. Her escape a
Horror films function as terrifying because of their
emphasis on the imagery of “abjection”
To “abject” something is to reject it, and create a mental
barrier between themselves and the abjected thing
Creed states that the notions of rejections can take
place in 3 ways
3 ABJECT RELATIONSHIPS
The first relationship to rejection can be created through imagery
An ‘abjected’ image is one that can contain:
Putrefying flesh etc…
The second relationship to ‘abjection’ is the notion of crossing a border
This is not a physical border but more a societal one, stepping away
from what is acceptable and instead moving towards unacceptable or
The third relationship to ‘abjection’ is through maternity, the mother herself
becomes the monster
The mother becomes the monster holding onto the mother child
relationship while the child attempts to break free of it
AND THE DESCENT
Watch the ending of The Descent.
Thinking of this scene and the ‘Second Birth’
sequence from before how can Sarah be considered
FEMALE + MONSTER
The idea that the female and femininity is threatening is
not a new concept in horror, but this concept is fully
realised in The Descent.
Sarah undergoes a transformation from traumatised housewife,
to modern primitive and monster in one.
Her position as a broken mother forces her to stay in the cave,
creating a psychotic delusion to which she cannot escape.
The space she inhabits is constructed to resemble the female
womb, normally a comforting life giving space, that has been
distorted and twisted into realms of horror whose distorted
foetuses (crawlers) live and thrive.
The women's prowess at the start if the film is slowly stripped
from them as they move deeper into the cave system, until one
of their own becomes the monster.
HOW ARE FEMALE
REPRESENTED IN THE
HORROR FILMS YOU HAVE
STUDIED FOR THIS TOPIC?
Thinking of the two films you have studied for this
topic how would you write an essay for this