Friday, 10 October 2014

@Alan -- [Narrative] 10: The Descent (2005) - Archetypes

Fig. 1: "The Descent" Alternative Poster. (2005)

A year after Sarah, the main protagonist, loses her husband and her young daughter in a terrible car accident, her and her five friends go on a caving holiday in the Appalachian Mountains; as arranged by Juno. The six women enter the caves, only to be trapped within by a cave-in.

They soon discover that Juno had knowingly led them to an uncharted cave system; she explains that she wanted them to claim it and that she would name it after Sarah. Then begins their desperate search for a way out, all the while they are hunted by blind humanoid creatures, perfectly evolved for the darkness, which hunt by sound. Below are some of the main Archetypes depicted in the film…

Tragic / Reluctant /  Loner Hero

Sarah becomes the tragic hero as the result of the death of her husband and daughter. She is reluctant to go on an exploration in the Appalachian Mountains. She becomes the loner hero when she is broken off from the main group, and when in the end she is left the last one standing.

The Shadow

Carnivorous, they kill the girls one by one.

Juno’s dark side
When Juno accidentally stabs Beth in the throat with a climbing axe – thinking it is a creature behind her, she leaves her to die without even a sorry. She also had an affair with Sarah’s husband.

Sarah’s anger
After discovering from a dying Beth that Juno left her to die, Sarah is asked to put Beth out of her misery, of which she reluctantly obeys. Sarah also learns about Juno’s affair with her husband. When Juno and Sarah are the only ones left alive, Sarah reveals what she knows and stabs Juno through the leg with a climbing axe, incapacitating her.

The Threshold Guardian

The Cave
The cave’s claustrophobic composition as well as its many dangerous hazards provide constant obstacles as the girls struggle towards the exit; “guarding” its own exit via its hazards and the creatures within it.

Just as it seems Sarah is about to escape she falls down a hole and is knocked out. It seems that she then escapes the cave but it is revealed that she is simply hallucinating as she stares at a lit torch; the cave appears to have won.

In order to reach the cave exit the girls must get past them – or die. When the entrance to the cave is blocked off by the cave-in, the girls must attempt to find another exit – they discover that there is a way out via ancient cave paintings on the wall.  At the end of the movie, the creatures can be heard, leaving it open as to whether or not Sarah survives.

It is to be noted however that in the sequel she does manage to escape but in the end, on a forced return to the caves, she sacrifices herself in order to allow another woman (a mother) to escape; unfortunately this woman is then knocked out by a shovel and dropped back in the cave – in the end, the cave and the creatures win.

The Quest
This begins as the girls’ original intention of exploring the cave, but becomes their quest to survive the cave and escape from within.

The Herald
Juno takes the role of the Herald, due to the fact that the exploration of the cave system was her idea. Sarah’s first sight of the creatures heralds the challenges that lay ahead.

The Shape Shifter
Both Sarah and Juno fill this role. Sarah could be descried as beginning as a Beta, she is the tragic mother who is reluctant to go on an adventure but becomes strong and able to do what must be done, she becomes a leader; when she incapacitates Juno, she removes the alpha-female status from her, claiming it for herself.

Juno fills this role in that the audience is first led to believe she is caring, with good intentions at heart e.g. wanting to claim the cave and name it after Sarah; however she becomes the enemy when she leaves Beth for dead, and when it is revealed that she had an affair with the husband of the very women she supposedly cared for.

The Mentor
The mentor takes the form of the girls themselves, working together in order to escape the cave.

Illustrations List
Fig 1. "The Descent" Alternative Poster (2005) [Poster] At: 
(Accessed 10.10.14)


  1. Hi Danny

    I haven't seen the decent but will give it watch and check out your Archetypes. Although after a quick read they sound like logical choices, perhaps with the exception of Mentor may be. I reserve my judgement though until I've seen it.