In 2005 horror audiences worldwide were introduced to a terrorizing descent into the depths of madness with Neil Marshall’s modern horror masterpiece The Descent. The film followed a group of young women, led by Sarah (played by Shauna Macdonald), who are pushed to the brink as they get more than they bargained for during a cave-diving expedition that goes horribly wrong.
Dread Central recently had the opportunity to catch up with Macdonald in conjunction with the release of The Descent Part 2 (review here), now available on DVD, and spoke to the actress about what it felt like to step back into the shoes of Sarah and why she thinks The Descent stands out amongst its genre peers.
“Originally there was an idea right after we finished the first Descent that we should do a sequel,” explained Macdonald, “but I thought that was a daft idea myself. I couldn’t see how it would even work. But here we are five years later, and we’re talking about the sequel so I guess that shows what I know.”
With there being two different endings to the original Descent, I spoke to Macdonald about how that played into the sequel’s creative path.
“The rest of the world got the UK ending, and then, because of focus group testing, the US got a shortened ending. I sort of believe that maybe The Descent Part 2 probably won’t make much sense to UK audiences and audiences abroad, but hopefully we sort of toyed with the ending of the first in the beginning of this one enough so that it works for audiences everywhere,” Macdonald said.
With there being five years between both projects, I asked Macdonald if getting prepared to step back into such a physical role was at all daunting.
“I started training for three months before we started shooting The Descent 2,” explained Macdonald. “I also did a lot of fight training beforehand, too, because I wanted to try and be a part of those sequences as much as possible. I didn’t really need to because my stunt person is this amazing woman, but I guess I wanted to push myself to see just how much I could do.”
“I guess maybe I should have let the stunt woman do more because I ended up getting a shiner from Natalie [Mendoza] during the fight we had. She really laid me out, even left me on the floor, but it was totally worth it. The movie was filmed chronologically so if you look closely later on, you can actually see it in some of the scenes,” Macdonald added.
With the two Descent films now under her belt, I spoke to the actress about what her thoughts are on why the franchise has such a loyal fanbase and why the first stands out as a landmark film of the last ten years of the horror genre. Macdonald said, “I think part of what made The Descent such an effective film was that it was such an unusual story. Neil really took his time developing those characters so fans become invested with the girls as their journey continues. You want to see them make it.”
“I also think that the movie has a psychological element that goes beyond just creatures in a cave. With The Descent Neil did a brilliant job of bringing together so many magical elements at the right time, and I think that’s why it still resonates. So much of what Neil did with the first film made it possible for us to come back for a sequel,” added Macdonald.
Now that The Descent Part 2 is finally out for fans to enjoy, I asked Macdonald if there are any plans for a third Descent and whether or not she feels her journey as Sarah is over.
“Because I was surprised that they figured out a creative way to create a sequel, I’d never rule out another Descent film,” said Macdonald. “Sarah has been such a huge part of my 20s, I’d always return to tell her story. No one has officially said anything yet, but it wouldn’t really surprise me. We had a wonderful time making the sequel.”
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