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  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Some see Sarah as a sympathetic and crazy Woobie, while others see her as a evil psychopath who committed an unredeemable act. Some see Juno as a flawed but ultimately heroic badass, while others see her as the selfish bitch who got all her friends killed by taking them to the wrong cave and practically murdered Beth. Word of God states that Juno's character was deliberately created to make the audience flip-flop between loving her and hating her. Juno's determination to find Sarah and protect her could stem either from simply being a protective friend or wanting to make up for everything she's done to her already.
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    • Question: What would you do if your home was invaded by a bunch of weird-looking giantesses with insanely advanced technology who were impossible to communicate with? Especially after one killed a child?
    • Another one for Juno, and whether or not if she is responsible (though indirectly) for the death of Sarah's husband and child. Seeing that it's clear the husband had something on his mind, especially after a brief moment of seeing Juno with Sarah not noticed, which in turn led to Sarah's husband to be distracted when Sarah asked if something was wrong while he was driving.
    • Here's one for Beth. She tells Sarah that Juno killed her but is very deceptive when she says this - leaving out the fact that it was an accident. She also says "don't trust her" and then gives Sarah the "love each day" pendant. It's presented as a warning to Sarah about what Juno might be capable of, but what if it's a petty last ditch attempt at revenge - trying to make it look like Juno is unstable and going to murder everyone (when in actuality she stays level-headed for the majority of the disaster).
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    • And did Juno and Paul actually have an affair? The sequel confirms it yes, but all we see are a couple of Held Gazes and the pendant she wears with a quote of his on it. Could they have been together briefly before he and Sarah married? Or did they just develop feelings for each other but never acted on them?
  • Alternative Joke Interpretation: On whether it was a joke in the first place. Beth comforts Sarah when she gets stuck crawling through a passage, saying "the worst thing that can happen to you has already happened". Is she referring to the worst case scenario of getting stuck? Or is she actually talking about the loss of her family, as a way of reminding Sarah how much she's suffered and overcome?
  • Base-Breaking Character: Juno was intentionally written to be divisive. It worked. Maybe a little too much.
    • For some audience members, she is the real Big Bad, who point out (correctly) that the whole situation is her fault given that she explicitly went against the rules without telling Becca for instance, who clearly would've stopped her; she kills Beth (accidentally) but then abandons her to a slow and painful death; and, before all of that, she slept with Paul, betraying her supposed best friend Sarah, then ditched her after his death.
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    • For others, she's a Draco in Leather Pants at worst, who point out (also correctly) that she is extremely badass and brave; she refuses to leave without Sarah and even makes a point of trying to grab Holly's body back from the Crawlers at a risk to her own life.
    • And then there's a third party of belief that sees Juno as a realistically flawed human. Yes, she brought the girls into an unexplored cave which was an unwise choice, slept with her best friend's husband, and left Beth to die alone and refused to tell the truth to anyone else. However, they also point out that Juno couldn't have known about the real danger in the crawlers, she still cares about Sarah, refuses to abandon her or anyone else still alive, with her leaving Beth being a moment of extreme weakness born of the trauma that she had killed, something she understandably wouldn't want to tell the others when they're already in dire straits.
  • Better on DVD: There is a lot of detail and scenes that you can't really enjoy as much unless it's on a huge high def cinema screen.
  • Broken Base:
    • Disagreement about whether the crawlers are real or Sarah is the one killing her friends can get very heated and supporters of one interpretation often flat-out refuse to accept that the other is even remotely possible.
    • There's the matter of Juno's Accidental Murder of Beth. On the one hand, yes she killed her friend and lied about it. On the other, Beth approached her from behind in the dark without giving any indicator of who she was.
    • Some don't like how Juno is the only woman of color in the group because the cast could be more diverse. Made more problematic by how Juno is the one who sends everyone into the wrong cave, accidentally kills Beth, and has an affair with Paul. She makes it near to the end of the movie only to get attacked by the white female lead, Sarah, and left to die while Sarah escapes. Although the UK ending hints that Sarah is doomed too. This tends to ignore that while there is little diversity in race, there is in accents, which is definitely a talking point in UK film (which tends to emphasize RP and southerners); Beth is the only one fitting that description, with Sarah being Scottish, Holly being Irish and Becca and Sam are Dutch. The first two also avert many stereotypes associated with their nationalities.
    • Which is better, the UK or US ending? Back in 2006ish when it was first released in America, it was generally regarded that the UK ending was far superior.
  • Delusion Conclusion:
    • The sudden introduction of cave-dwelling monsters has resulted in some viewers theorizing that Sarah suffered a psychotic break from the stress of being trapped underground, and is actually killing her friends. The evidence consists of the trauma Sarah suffered in the car crash that killed her husband and daughter, and the fact that she is seen taking pills before leaving the cabin. Admittedly, Sarah does suffer Sanity Slippage, Mercy Kills Beth and later cripples Juno so she can't escape, but her friends also encounter the Crawlers long before she rejoins them, so it's a bit of a stretch. The sequel thoroughly debunks this idea.
    • Other viewers go even further and speculate that Sarah was left comatose and fatally wounded in the car crash at the start of the film, and the rest of the story is just a Dying Dream that only ends when she finally accepts her fate - as "symbolized" by her calmly sitting down with a hallucination of her daughter and waiting for the Crawlers to find her. Again, debunked by the sequel.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Despite being arguably the most underdeveloped of the group except Holly, Rebecca gets a lot of love for her climbing feats and Big Sister Instinct.
    • A minor example because she is a very important character, but Beth dies second in the film (only to Holly) and is often discussed, including on This Very Wiki, as much as Juno or Sarah. Despite not being around anywhere near as long as them, it's clear she made a pretty big impact.
  • Epileptic Trees:
    • Some view the film as being Through the Eyes of Madness - that Sarah is imagining the presence of the Crawlers and is the one killing her friends, having completely lost it. This idea is suggested, but is ambiguous at best (and the sequel pretty much kills the idea).
    • Another theory is that Sarah also perished in the car crash and the rest of the film is a Dying Dream.
  • Fanon Discontinuity:
    • It can be tempting to try and start ignoring everything that happens around Juno accidentally stabbing Beth and/or The sisters falling to the crawlers.
    • There is a sequel. Even ignoring the various issues it has on its own, fandom denies its very existence, since it is Cutting Off the Branches and in rather contentious way, too.
  • Fridge Brilliance: The reason why Beth is the most level-headed and reassuring of the entire group is because she's an English teacher, not fucking Tomb Raider. Her literal job is to look up for a group of school kids and make sure they are safe, so she's doing the exact same thing with her friends when spelunking and facing various dangers of the cave.
  • Fridge Horror: Imagine how horrifying it must be for Sarah to watch Beth die after being stabbed with a sharp object after how her husband died.
  • He's Just Hiding: if you ignore the sequel it can be possible to hold out some hope for Juno and Becca who have both just taken bad injuries but aren’t dead yet when the camera leaves them.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: The scene of Juno coaching Sam dangling from the rope above the drop can be rather eerie if you know that Juno's actress Natalie Mendoza would be on the other end of that in a real life situation. She was part of the Broadway cast of the infamous Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, playing the villainess Arachne. The character was supposed to swing out on a web above the audience, and of course the mechanism malfunctioned, leaving the actress dangling above the crowd for eight minutes. She left the production after suffering a concussion.
  • Love to Hate: Juno. The filmmakers even said they wanted the audience to be divided between loving and hating her from scene to scene. See Base-Breaking Character for why.
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • For some others, Juno crossed this when she left Beth for dead and lied about it. It's kind of a touchy, but much-brought up subject amongst fans. One could also argue that Juno did this much earlier by tricking her friends into the wrong cave, including a novice, or that her affair with Sarah's husband qualifies.
    • For some, Sarah crosses this when she impales Juno's leg with a pick and leaves her for dead, after learning that the latter not only left Beth for dead and lied about it, but she was also having an affair with her late husband. (Although, to be fair, Sarah had become rather batshit by that point.)
  • Nausea Fuel: Holly breaking her leg, resulting in the splintered bone poking out of the wound - and having to have said bone pushed back in minutes later.
  • Paranoia Fuel: You probably shouldn't watch this film if you're planning on going caving any time soon.
  • Presumed Flop: The film is remembered for coming out after the London 7/7 bombings, and largely believed to have flopped in the UK due to "nobody wanting to see a film about a group of women trapped underground", released only one day after over fifty people had been killed by being trapped on the London Underground. Especially unfortunately, this poster was on the very bus that blew up. However, the film itself was actually very successful (making over £50 million worldwide on a £3.7 million budget). Partly, this can be attributed to the fact that this is extremely cheap, but they also replaced the poster campaign, so it may be a case of misremembered controversy (and it's possible that it could have done even better - or worse - without the controversy.)
  • Realism-Induced Horror: One major reason for how unsettling the film is comes from the first half portraying just what dangers there are when going caving alone; cave-ins, being cut off from exits, running out of supplies, accidental injuries and being separated. A good chunk of viewers find that aspect even scarier than the Crawlers.
  • Retroactive Recognition:
  • Signature Scene:
    • Sarah walking through a pool of blood and rising from the water, torch and weapon in hand.
    • Sarah’s final scene with Juno, and both of the endings.
  • Special Effects Failure: While most of the effects are extremely convincing, at least one of the Crawlers coming towards Juno towards the end is very blatantly a CG effect.
  • Squick: Falling into a pool of blood. The sequel managed to top it: Falling into a pool of blood and crawler shit.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Becca, whose death is one of the most senseless and tragic in terms of plot impact. Also Holly, who could have been a Handicapped Badass in her own right.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot:
  • Too Bleak, Stopped Caring: Yikes. This trope applies in an oddly different manner than most horror movies, it's not hard to watch because the characters are so awful it's impossible to care about the plot, but because they're so relatable and sympathetic all the horrible things that happen to them are that much worse. Let's just say that the title is very accurate - this is a film that only goes down.
  • Too Cool to Live:
    • Holly, the bad ass tough girl who loves thrills, is the first main character to die. Her broken leg sort of made her an easy target.
    • And even more so after that, Juno and Sarah. These two especially establish their badass credentials by hitting beating several Crawlers in fights.
  • Tough Act to Follow: Was something of one for Neil Marshall in terms of film. His debut feature Dog Soldiers was a hit, but this really set the bar high in terms of production values and critical acclaim. His third feature Centurion was well-received but was his first to actually flop. The Descent is the most highly regarded of his films, and the only one popular enough to get a sequel. Thankfully, he still managed to helm some of the more beloved Game of Thrones episodes.
  • The Woobie: Everyone gets their moments, although the most prominent example would be Sarah, pre-Ax-Crazy. The poor woman loses her husband and daughter in the opening moments of the film, and said husband was possibly cheating on her with one of her best friends (who avoided her for a year after the accident too).

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