How many of these references did you pick up on?
The entire weekend-outing-gone-horribly-awry angle in The Descent owes a great deal to John Boorman's 1972 existential survivalist classic, Deliverance. While some nods are obvious, from the opening white water rafting sequence to Juno's sporting some Burt Reynolds-style sleeveless climbing gear, some are less obvious. First off, the fictional National Park where the girls go caving is named after the Chattooga River, deep in the Appalachian country of Georgia, where Deliverance was largely filmed.
There are some extremely subtle references to Drew (Ronny Cox), who meets a rather grisly end:
Sarah (Shauna MacDonald) emerging from the underground is reminiscent of Deliverance...
...and also Brian DePalma's
By the time Sarah rises out of the chum pool, one can't help but notice the striking similarity she bears to Sissy Spacek as poor ol' Carrie White. Man, Sissy Spacek is so fucking good in this movie.
Sarah also comes to resemble Sally Hardesty in
THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE
In fact, in addition to the visual cues, The Descent shares a bit thematically with TCM as Sarah and Sally both descend into insanity over the course of their respective films. They'd make quite a cuckoo nutso tag team, don't you think? OMIGOD I just said "they both descend" and the film is called The Descent...can you believe it? I totally need to add that to my lecture notes.
The idea of a character being driven mad is also central to Kubrick's 1980 horror masterpiece, The Shining. The film also gets one of the biggest visual nods in Marshall's film, as early driving sequences in both movies are filmed in the same manner:
Far less obvious are the winks to Ridley Scott's Alien; the films have more of a feel in common than anything else, but the sequence depicting Juno (Natalie Mendoza) and Sarah climbing over the bone dam is much like the sequence wherein John Hurt climbs up and gets an eyeful of the space jockey:
THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS
Juno's morning jog is a direct reference to the morning jog of Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) in Silence of the Lambs:
The poster for The Descent also pays homage to Silence, borrowing from the poster. Of course, both films ape the image from Philippe Halsman's photograph Salvador Dali In Voluptate Mors, which in turn is based on Dali's gouache painting Female Bodies as a Skull.
Now then, don't you feel 3% smarter than you were before you read this post? Analyzing is fun! For further discussion, though, you'll all have to sign up for my class. Anyone who brings me cookies gets an automatic A.
What? I like bribes.