August 04, 2006 at 07:12 PM EDT

It may not be on most (or any) pundits’ shortlists for an Oscar nod, but I’ll be darned if British horror flick The Descent doesn’t have some of the most uniformly positive (or at least not negative) reviews of any movie released in recent months. EW’s own Lisa Schwarzbaum gives the movie an A-, offering the following mad props: ”Made with a connoisseur’s love of muck, blood, inky darkness, and equal parts elegance and ewwww, The Descent raises the level of the post–Blair Witch, post–Open Water horror game.” And, much like the six women whose spelunking trip goes oh-so-scary-wrong in the film, Schwarzbaum is not alone. Read on for more of the critical lovefest sparked by the film, and let us know what you think if you check it out this weekend.

Chris Kaltenbach, Baltimore Sun: “The Descent is the most exhilaratingly horrifying movie to come out in years, a squirm-inducing exercise in terror that relentlessly preys on one of the most basic human fears, the fear of being trapped.”

Christopher Borrelli, Toledo Blade: “If you miss The Descent because the trailers and TV commercials make it look like just another routine shocker with a CGI Xbox-ready monster — and the marketing does; so much so, even a theater manager told me, ‘I didn’t want to see it when it was called The Cave‘ — you are missing nothing less than one of the finest-crafted horror movies in years, a virtual lesson in how to make a scary picture with no money, a couple of clever sets, a generous bucket of fake entrails, a handful of monster suits, innate talent, and a little showmanship.”

Sean P. Means, The Salt Lake Tribune: “The Descent is a white-knuckle horror-thriller from Britain that does for spelunking what Jaws did for ocean swimming and Alien did for space.”

David Germain, Associated Press: “The movie’s thrill-and-chill sequences are nasty and suspenseful, though once the creatures start to attack, the scenes get repetitive. Writer-director Neil Marshall offers a cast you can care about and believe in, compared to the mannequinlike teens generally lining up for slaughter in horror movies.”

Wesley Morris, Boston Globe: “Being trapped is a terrible situation for them and great news for us, because right around the time that Holly (Nora-Jane Noone ), the ‘mentalist who jumps off buildings,’ plummets down a hole and breaks her leg, the movie starts to treat us to the unspeakable wickedness that surrounds them.”

Judy Chia Hui Hsu, Seattle Times: “Tight shots of women desperately wriggling through worm holes or teetering on a ledge overlooking an abyss create a claustrophobic effect, one that leaves the characters gasping for air and the audience breathing shallower. Monochromatic scenes — highlighting the red blood clinging on a woman’s body or the green glow of a light stick — heighten the eerie atmosphere.”

Geoff Pevere, Toronto Star: “Even if the movie’s improbabilities, anemic characters and undercooked contrivances show themselves too nakedly in the light of day, you still have to credit the movie with two things: it gets under your skin in the way very few scary movies bother to these days, and it’s not about torture. While the movie’s poster screams that it came from the same pit, which spit forth Saw and Hostel, The Descent has much more on its mind than rusty chains and power tools.”

Sean Axmaker, Seattle Post-Intelligencer: “With The Descent, a nerve-racking, claustrophobic survival thriller about six spelunking women hunted by the creepiest cave dwellers to skitter across a screen in ages, [director Neil] Marshall hones his skills to thrilling perfection.”

Bill Muller, Arizona Republic: “It would be easy to go off on The Descent for being too formulaic, gore-filled and derivative. But man, it’ll scare the bejabbers out of you.” [EDITOR’S NOTE: Bejabbers. Hee!]

Mark Burger, Winston-Salem Journal: “[The Descent] delivers what it promises, and in a season filled with studio hyperbole, that’s a quality to be admired. What it promises, however, are violent and visceral thrills, so the squeamish are hereby forewarned. This is not a summer treat for children; it’s a summer treat for horror fans.”

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