Emily Malech - Week 5 - Walters - ENG 196
Close Reading: The Descent
In most horror films, low pitched sound is used to build up intensity which tells the
audience when something bad is about to occur. In other words, we know when something
scary is about to happen because the music builds up and gets louder before going
completely silent. The Descent uses these techniques commonly throughout the film; the
tension and jolt is used when the antagonist (a creature) is close and coming in for an attack.
The sound is often silent in the film to give a more realistic seeming effect on the audience.
Additionally, Marshall highlights the sounds of knives cutting through skin or creatures
eating flesh to accentuate the brutality and gore of the situation, even though in reality those
sounds aren’t necessarily that powerful.
In the beginning of The Descent, a lot of music is played. This might be to introduce
the type of setting as being heartwarming or terrifying (depending on the scene). As the film
progresses, less and less music is used. Once the audience is used to the setting and the
situation the characters are in, the lack of music makes the film seem more like a reality.
Because music isn’t played in the background of real life situations, using it in a film creates
an artificial essence. Marshall deciding to cut out music from most of the latter parts of the
film adds to the horror of it all. The audience is almost hypnotized after a while into
believing they are in the cave with the characters.
Lighting plays a huge role in the cave. To create a claustrophobic atmosphere,
Marshall darkens most of the background of the cave, so the audience is not able to actually
see the surroundings or where the creatures are hiding. All we are able to see, most of the
time, is what the girls are able to see. The girls’ small lights on their helmets barely light up
the large film screen and a lot of the time their small light reveals just slightly what is going
on. Occasionally Marshall will have the girls use a flare to light the entire cave. This
reiterates just how large and daunting the cave is so that when it is dark the rest of the film
the audience feels small and overwhelmed.
Another lighting technique in The Descent is through the infrared camera that Sarah