The Descent: Part 2 (2009)
Directed by Jon Harris
Written by J Blakeson, James McCarthy, and James Watkins
The collective groans at the announcement of a sequel to Neil Marshall's claustrophobic monster flick The Descent could be heard echoing through the horror film community like a pack of hungry cave crawlers. However, a faint whisper of hope fought through in the hopes that a continuation might be able to recreate the tension of the first film while delivering an original premise. When it was revealed that Marshall would not direct, but only serve as executive producer, the groans multiplied. It didn't help the cause that upon release on the festival circuit, the film received mixed reviews. Would The Descent now fall victim to the dilution that's been the downfall of so many other sequelized horror films? Did director Jon Harris (editor of the first film) "recapture lightning in a bottle" as a blurb on the back of the DVD box exclaimed?
In a way, the sequel was exactly what it needed to be. Rather than take the safe route of rehashing the original film with a different cast, The Descent 2 picks up a few days after the first left off:
(Bummer. This amnesia is messing with my deja vu.)
Sarah (Shauna MacDonald), the only survivor of the original, is in a state of extreme shock when she is picked up by a kindly man in a pickup after scaring the piss out of him. Upon examination by the local authorities, the sherrif demands that Sarah, stricken with amnesia and covered in blood, return to the site of the creature carnage to assist with locating her friends. It seems that Juno (Natalie Jackson Mendoza), last seen being handicapped by Sarah and dispatched by some hungry crawlers, is the daughter of a state senator. The sherrif is compelled to find her whether alive or dead. He distrusts the crazed Sarah from the get go, but hopes being back in the cave system will jog her memory. A team of caving experts joins them in a doomed mission to search the subterranean lair of the cave creatures. They very quickly become trapped in the caves at the mercy of our favorite clan of blind, hairless, and toothy crawlers.
The biggest problem I had with The Descent 2 is that with the exception of a few nice jump scares, there really are no surprises. The entire reason the original was such a success was the air of mystery and danger surrounding the cave systems. A great deal of time was spent with characterization and becoming acquainted with the environment and real fears associated with caving. Once the crawlers were slowly introduced, we had already been treated to an amazingly tense film which would have succeeded whether or not there were any monsters at all. In the sequel, however, there is more of a sense of simply cutting to the chase. What The Descent 2 mostly promises and delivers on is that of a straight up action horror movie. Not that there's anything wrong with that, per se, but now that we're saddled with a less charismatic cast, it's a little more difficult to feel any real fear for the characters.
(No, the evolution of the crawlers still does not include the creation of underwear.)
At the very least, The Descent 2 is an entertaining film. The pacing is swift and there is action aplenty. Despite more action in lieu of atmosphere, the film does not skimp on recreating the claustrophobic feel of the first film. There are many moments of characters in those tight spaces we loved and dreaded so much in the first film. What has changed is the number and frequncy of monster encounters which has mulitiplied to accomodate a variety of crawlers. The filmmakers did not shy away from the gore as many head crushings and gushing lacerations fill the screen with glorious thick blood and grue. Despite the decrease in suspense, the film does deliver many great set pieces. Though it falls short of the first film, at least its obvious that their hearts were in it.
This is not meant to be a negative review. I think The Descent 2 is a nice little Saturday afternoon time waster. Hell, it may have even been a pretty good movie to catch on the big screen. At its best, it is a gory monster action film that delivers on all those fronts. At its worst, it competently presents something we've already seen before.
The Descent: Part 2 Trailer