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The Descent$
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James Marriott

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9781906733711

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: February 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781906733711.001.0001

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The Descent

James Marriott

Liverpool University Press

This chapter analyses the womb imagery permeating Neil Marshall's The Descent (2005), and asks what is so scary about being born. Representations of the cave as womb have a long and distinguished heritage, aligning the cave with the intrauterine qualities of other terrible places: the basements, sewers, underground lairs, mine shafts, and tunnel systems where monsters dwell in horror films. The terrible place of horror can be considered to contain a '“uterine” threat', the threat of dissolution, loss of self, and reincorporation into the mother. Is this threat of reincorporation really enough to account for horror's insistent use of intrauterine imagery? Perhaps the womb represents death for us in ways other than a fear of or desire for non-differentiation: the sole certainty when we are born is that we will die; to be born is to be condemned to a certain death. Thinking about the womb further raises the fundamental, perhaps most uncomfortable metaphysical question: What happened to us before we were born? Where have we come from?

Keywords:   womb imagery, Neil Marshall, The Descent, birth, death, cave, terrible places, horror films

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