The Descent is widely considered one of the best horror films of the last ten years, so it didn’t surprise many folks when it was announced that a sequel would be forthcoming. What was surprising, however, was how little fanfare the film got upon its 2009 U.K. release, where it was something of a commercial disappointment. While it doesn’t live up to the standards set by Marshall’s beloved original, The Descent: Part 2 is still an effectively creepy little shocker in its own right, and one that should please fans looking for more of the same sort of claustrophobic chills and gruesome kills (but only half of the smarts) of the first film.
The Descent: Part 2 opens where the last film left off (depending on which side of the Atlantic you live on, that is), with a blood spattered Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) fleeing from the woods after escaping the clutches of the subterranean cave dwellers who killed off her friends in the first movie. News of Sarah’s survival reaches Sheriff Haines (Gavan O’ Herlihy), who’s been overseeing a search for Sarah’s spelunking expedition on the other side of the county. Haines is most concerned with the fate of one Juno Kaplan (Natalie Mendoza), who Sarah left to die after discovering that Juno did the same to one of their best mates just to save her own skin. It turns out that Juno is the daughter of a powerful politician, and Haines is under tremendous pressure to find her, going so far as to force the near catatonic Sarah to accompany he and his search party back to the cave system from which she surfaced. Sarah has no recollection of the events of the past two days, but, as she accompanies Haines, his deputy, Elen Rios (Krysten Cummings) and a trio of cave rescue experts into the cave, it all starts coming back to her, and it’s not long before the rescue team needs rescuing of their own.
Under the watchful eye of producer, Neil Marshall, director, Jon Harris (who edited the original), does a fine job setting the table for the bountiful scares, but doesn’t really bring much new to the table in terms of visual style, and, as a result, the proceedings look a little bit flat and uninspired when (perhaps unjustly) compared to Marshall’s film, but, for what is for all intents and purposes a direct-to-DVD release, this is a fairly sophisticated looking film.
Sadly, the story, itself, is nowhere near as sophisticated, serving as little more than a flimsy excuse to get Sarah back into the cave, and reintroduce Juno. It’s nice to see the two reunited, but they’re surrounded by a quintet of underwritten and mostly unsympathetic characters that may as well be wearing red Starfleet uniforms and “Eat Me” signs on their backs. Mendoza skulks around like a feral cat, while Sarah reverts to Ellen Ripley mode, and, in the film’s bloody final act, we finally get a glimpse of what made The Descent such a brilliant movie to begin with.
Being that this is a sequel to a movie about underground mutant beasties who eat people, one can’t fault the screenwriters for trying to get the action back into the caves as quickly as possible, but at least give us a better reason than “amnesia”. Oh, and the less said about the twist ending the better.
Those complaints aside, I did have a good time with The Descent: Part 2. It sports an abundance of grisly death scenes and effective jump-scares, and, while it lacks the polish and finesse of the first film, it’s still leagues better than the lion’s share of horror sequels to come down the direct-to-DVD pike in recent years.
Lionsgate brings The Descent: Part 2 to DVD with a solid 2.35:1 transfer that manages the film’s dark aesthete quite nicely, with minimal grain and no sign of digital compression or artifacting. The blacks are rich and velvety, while colors are well balanced and natural. The DVD offers a fine selection of bonus features, including a commentary track featuring director, Harris, and stars, Macdonald, Cummings, and Anna Skellern, who plays the sexy rescue climber, Cath. Also included are an assortment of deleted scenes and a short-yet-satisfying making-of featurette.
If you liked The Descent, you’ll like The Descent: Part 2 just so long as you’re willing to look beyond the convenient set-up and some infuriating lapses in logic. Once the action gets going, it’s really a lot of fun, and gorehounds will be more than satiated by the amount of red stuff on display. While I won’t go so far as to call it a worthy successor to The Descent, I will say that it’s a more than acceptable one, and, considering just how good the original film is, that’s probably better than anyone should expect.