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This Is The True Villain In The Descent

Released in 2005, the horror film "The Descent" has endured as a haunting exploration of the relationship between "real" monsters and monstrous behavior. After a particularly traumatic loss, the protagonist, Sarah (Shauna Macdonald), struggles to reconnect with her close group of friends. After a year of estrangement, one of her old buddies, Juno (Natalie Mendoza), plans a reunion to bring them all together for a challenging yet enjoyable adventure in the outdoors. Although still reeling from her grief, Sarah agrees to participate in a day-long spelunking journey. However, she finds it difficult to open up to Juno, who distanced herself after Sarah lost her daughter and husband in a car accident.

While Juno attempts to make amends, her forceful demeanor becomes suspicious and alienating. Rather than respect Sarah's anguish, she repeatedly tries to impose a level of camaraderie and cheer that remains at odds with the overall dynamics of the group. Moreover, it becomes increasingly clear that she feels guilty for something bigger than her falling-out with Sarah. While navigating a dangerous cave system, her reckless actions lead her friends into danger. In their efforts to escape the "crawlers," they must make heartbreaking decisions.

Throughout the film, Juno is far from the only member of the group to make mistakes. However, as the story progresses, there is a case to be made that she is the true villain in "The Descent."

Juno manipulates her friends for personal gain

At first, Juno tries to act like a caring, well-intentioned, and kind person. She hopes to repair her friendship with Sarah, even apologizing for walking away from her friend when she needed her the most. However, Juno's solicitous behavior is more of an attempt at a quick fix rather than a meaningful solution. The real reason she wants Sarah's forgiveness is because she had an affair with her husband. Juno is more interested in reconciling with Sarah to mitigate her guilt rather than actually work to understand her friend's pain.

As a result, Juno decides to cut corners. She takes on the responsibility of planning their cave-exploring trip. When her friends check in with her, Juno lies and assures them that their route has been fully explored and marked safe. However, she secretly leads them into an unfamiliar part of the cave system. This turns out to be a manipulative attempt to create a "bonding" opportunity between her and Sarah.

After navigating a particularly narrow passage, the women become concerned about their planned route. However, before they can assess their next steps, a portion of the cave collapses behind them, blocking their exit. It is only when her friends argue that they should wait for rescue that Juno reveals the truth. They have to keep moving forward and find a new way to escape because no one is coming for them. It is Juno who sets off a devastating chain of actions that prove fatal.

She abandons her friends in life-or-death situations

As their situation grows more and more dire, Juno becomes increasingly agitated and impulsive. She refuses to take accountability for her self-serving and cruel mistake. Instead, she bounds forward, convinced that she can "fix" everything. However, when the women finally run into the humanoid crawlers, a vicious group of sightless creatures, Juno doesn't know how to react.

After fighting off one of the monsters, Juno accidentally strikes her friend, Beth (Alex Reid), with her pickaxe. Injured and losing blood, Beth pleads with Juno to stay and help her. Instead, Juno cruelly deserts her and leaves her to fend off the crawlers by herself. When Sarah finds Beth, she is unable to stanch the bleeding. Tragically, at Beth's behest, she mercy kills her friend before the monsters can get to her.

While true fear can certainly overwhelm any person in such a situation, Juno's heartless and selfish actions are what lead to the catastrophic turn of events in the cave. Again and again, she betrays her friends, so consumed with her own desires that she fails to display any real empathy or courage. Not only is she the very reason that her friends are brutally killed by the crawlers, but she also chooses to abandon them even when she could have helped them.