The Descent: Part 2

The Descent: Part 2 is extremely successful for doing at least two things: cementing my need to never spelunk in uncharted (or charted) cave systems, while also cementing my need to never watch another spelunking horror movie. The first Descent film whetted my appetite, but the second just shat in my mouth. Sequels should only ever exist if there is a new story to tell, or at least a way to spin the original tale into unforeseen areas. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. This film is a tepid redundancy where some details have changed, but the beats are all the same. I wish the horrors were as deep as these caverns are supposed to be. The Descent, as directed by Neil Marshall, is surprisingly adept at juggling the spook tactics of carnivorous cave monsters and claustrophobic isolation. The simple character design did not need expansion to be interesting. Geez, I wish I could just keep talking about that one. Because in Part 2, we don't just get five friends out for adventure; there are cops and rescue workers, as well as Sarah (Shauna Macdonald, the original film's survivor), but the same lack of development and depth is present. Everybody has that one special thing that makes them who they are. Yawn.

Things begin interestingly enough, picking up immediately after the first film ends. A mentally unstable Sarah emerges from the woods far from the area where rescue parties are searching for her. Officers Vaines (Gavan O'Herlihy, the bad cop) and Rios (Krysten Cummings, the good cop) are desperate to find out where the other missing girls are, but here's the thing: Sarah can't remember. She's taken to a hospital for tests, but there's not enough time to heal from the tasking ordeal she's just been through before Vaines bullheadedly decides an offshoot search party must scour the area where Sarah was found and that Sarah has to help. It seems pointless to bring up how weak Sarah's muscles would be, as well as how drained she would be after a lack of proper sleep, but it never left my mind.

Search-party enthusiasts Dan (Douglas Hodge), Cath (Anna Skellern), and Greg (Joshua Dallas) join the hunt. (There's some kind of relationship going somewhere between these three, but I couldn't care enough to make heads or tails of it.) By way of old kooky Ed Oswald's handy mineshaft elevator, the group head down into no man's land. This is right about the time the director and writers decide to forego originality, and the clichés, like the saliva-riddled crawlers, begin appearing at an alarming rate.

Once under the earth, Sarah flashes on a disturbing memory, causing her to lash out against the others before taking off on her own. A series of bad decisions splits the rest of the group up, and the body-count order almost predicts itself. When Sarah returns, her memory is regained, and she's turned into a badass killing machine. She leads her dwindling group through the monster-laden caves, soon finding a character previously thought dead. I won't ruin it for you, but it's still pretty obvious. The film's second half is very cookie-cutter, so spoiling everything would be tedious work indeed. As a plus, you probably won't guess the ending until it's right in front of you, and its dour outcome is rather pleasing for the sub-genre.

If this was the first film in a series, I would have far fewer problems with it. On its own, it's competent, and could easily stand up to the majority of low-budget horrors stinking up shelf space. Unfortunately, it's doomed to live in its predecessor's far superior shadow. There are moments in The Descent where I held my breath as characters snaked their way through the rapidly shrinking crawlspaces, and I could psychologically put myself in a similar situation. Conversely, the caves in Part 2 look like backdrops from any of the Flintstones movies, so I was constantly reminded that these people were on a set. Characters are often lit from above as if there were natural light sources that far underground. Even when total darkness is attempted in scenes where characters use flashlights or cameras for sight, there is still no logic to the way light hits things, which always took me out of the moment, assuming I was in it to begin with.

While the film is commendable for keeping its gore and effects on the practical side rather than digitizing everything, most of the effects are clunky and draw attention to themselves. Too many suspenseful moments are filmed far too close-up, or have disjointed inserts edited in. Fights with creatures inevitably contain a combat-pausing zoomed in shot of a poker entering the creature's eye, or an arm being torn apart in a bloody, neon-red manner. This tactic doesn't always fail, but the editing stilts most of the action-heavy scenes. At least the monsters still look pretty badass, even if their blindness aspect falls flat.

I'd feel comfortable spending another few pages dissecting how moronic the "Sarah forgot/Sarah remembered" plot arc is, or how inorganic the characters' motivations are, but that would be robbing you of time reading about or watching better movies. The scariest thing about The Descent: Part 2 is that people are going to be making money off of it for years to come. If the crawlers had a hold of this disc, they'd have committed suicide already. Maybe the sequel, already in development, will have this meta-plot involved. If you didn't already know from my past reviews, I cannot stand disc extras (particularly for a movie I didn't like) that showcase the cast and crew ham-fistedly glorifying every aspect of the project. I'm hardly alone in that respect, and I think the general public should be allowed to refute these statements, possibly at the cast or crew member's private residence, possibly with rotten fruit.

I'll admit the commentary (with Harris, Macdonald, Cummings, and Skellern) is fairly entertaining and amusing. However, they use words like "different" and "changed" when comparing this movie to the original, and that's where they lost me. Compounding this is "Making of The Descent: Part 2: Deeper and Darker," which provides a fair share of solid information about the filmmaking process and the problems involved. Still though, nobody ever acknowledges the fact that they were remaking the same movie. Nothing was deeper; nothing was darker. Incidentally, the back of the DVD box calls the monsters "more viciously feral" than the previous creatures, which is fucking stupid. I don't recall any crawlers from the first movie trading recipes or using toilets.

Rounding things out are a storyboard gallery and 10 minutes worth of deleted and alternate scenes that don't add or subtract much from the feature itself. Go throw this disc in your nearest presumably uninhabited cave system.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.