So if you know me, you know that I have a massive love for the 2005 horror movie The Descent. If you’ve seen that movie, you know that Juno is just the worst. However, I feel that Juno gets a slightly bad rap and that there is some defense of her. Before you read on this blog post will, of course, contain major spoilers for the movie, so if you haven’t seen it and want to avoid them, stop now.
Juno commits 3 major crimes in the movie. I want to take a moment to break these down separately. I also realize she is a fake person, so I am not interested in any comments that point that out. I like engaging with fiction as though it’s real, it’s interesting.
Crime Number One- She sleeps with Sarah’s husband.
Whelp, we are already off to a horrible start. Given the context, we know that Juno is good friends with Sarah before Paul (the man) comes into the picture, so it makes it especially bad that Juno betrays her friend. I am not going to attempt to excuse that crime, it was downright wrong of Juno. I will, however, say that because Paul dies so early in the movie, his guilt is often ignored. Whatever relationship Juno and Paul had, it was clearly not just a casual thing. Paul is a dick. We need little other information from him to know that he wasn’t just sleeping with Juno but convinced her they had a real relationship. Was Juno wrong to get involved with him? Of course. Was Paul a manipulative asshole that was leading both Juno and Sarah on? I think, yes.
Crime Number Two- She leads them into the cave.
This is really the crime if we are being honest. It is easy to understand how people might take more personal offense to other things Juno does, but the entire movie and everyone dying is based on this choice by Juno, so it’s the big one. The reality is, however misguided Juno’s thought process was the group likely would have survived without the crawlers. Even with Holly being so injured, the group is not without skills that would have eventually led them out. It’s also worth noting that even in this movie reality, there is no way Juno could have thought there would be “chuds” waiting for them. Juno makes a huge mistake with this one, but it’s not one that anyone could have predicted would have cost them all their lives. She wants the groups to be challenged, to heal, it’s selfish and stupid, but not inherently “evil” in its motivation. It speaks more to Juno’s immaturity than her actual “badness.”
Crime Number Three- Killing Beth.
Juno critically injures Beth and leaves her for dead. This, to me, is the most forgivable of her misdeeds, which I am sure will shock some readers. Stabbing Beth is clearly an accident. She is in a high-stress situation, she has lost a dear friend, she has fought off an unknown enemy, she hears a noise and reacts. Sadly that reaction spells doom for Beth, but it’s a mistake. But then leaving her for dead? This is what most people can’t forgive. I would point out there is no way to know how you would respond in that situation. The incredible guilt, fear, and trauma that Juno is suffering at that moment is immeasurable. She is also likely in shock. Juno may very well be unaware of what she is doing and simply responds with survival instincts and only later understands. Once she’s realized what she has done, there is nothing for her to do that will save Beth and save the other women. Which by the way, Juno does seem very concerned with saving the others.
The Real “Crime”
I put crime in quotes because it is not actually a crime and more a disagreement on character choices. The real issue for me is a writing choice that I personally can’t entirely agree with. I am not saying it was the wrong choice, I still love this movie, and it was their story to tell. I think it becomes a little too much. It’s not uncommon in movies like this to have a “bad” human as a counterpoint to the monsters. The guy in the zombie movie that seems to enjoy being in control and killing a little too much. The person in a disaster flick that thinks they know what is happening and is willing to sacrifice any and all people. My problem is I don’t really think The Descent needed this character.
However, I can appreciate that Juno adds drama to the story and does make for some emotional moments, it just again starts to feel like a lot. She has an affair with her best friend’s husband, leads them all to their deaths, and is the direct cause of one of those deaths? It starts to feel like a few too many strikes against her. Especially when you factor in that the friend group clearly puts her a bit on the outside. Juno becomes too bad. I also think it makes it impossible for some viewers to see and appreciate how hard she does actually try to right the wrongs that she’s done, which harms a bit of her development.
Still, overall it works out for the movie and, more importantly, the climax. Juno has been our bad guy throughout, even in comparison to the crawlers, and she eventually pays for that. How the audience would have felt about what Sarah does to Juno while trying to escape would have been entirely changed had we not been so universally against her. I still say there is a little redemption there if you want to look for it, but it is also perfectly acceptable to just hate her. For my personal tastes, I would have liked her to be a little less of the big bad, but again it was not my story to tell, and I like it the way it is.
So what do you think? Is there any redemption for Juno? Was she too bad? Or was she perfect for the purpose she was meant to serve?