Michael J. Reynolds
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The Descent: Part 2 (2009)
15th Apr 10
After surviving the horrors lurking in the Appalachian Mountains cave system Sarah finds herself quickly back in them again when a search is launched to find out what happened to her friends.
Director Neil Marshall's original The Descent efficiently tapped into our fears of enclosed spaces and isolation. It took it's time to build up nerve-wracking suspense before unleashing the full horror of what lurked within the potholes and caves that our leads found themselves in.
Where The Descent also differed to many other films of this genre is that there is a genuine sense of loss when a character buys it. It makes for an affecting and downbeat flick that Marshall worried audiences in North American wouldn't entirely buy into.
British audiences were left in no doubt that Shauna MacDonald's character stayed in the tunnels with the ghastly Crawlers as company. For American audiences the ending was far happier with Sarah escaping and thus rather conveniently paving the way for a sequel.
That the sequel took three years after the original to hit cinema screens is refreshing in this day and age that sees a new Saw flick churned out like clockwork for each successive Halloween season. But there was still the bitter aftertaste that the changed ending left and what's more sequels are by their very nature just weaker versions of what's gone before, right?
Not so in the case of The Descent: Part 2. Just five minutes in and we have already overlooked and forgiven Marshall's changed ending and find ourselves ready and willing for another trek down into those spooky old caves. The plot apes James Cameron's Aliens in having the surviving female face her demons by revisiting her recent hellish past just two days after being found, rather than the fifty seven that Ripley got away with. Two days? Yeah that's right, but hey, it's economic licensing and if you can overlook that and other such plot flaws then you are in for a whale of a time.
There's plenty of jumps and some very nasty moments to mark this out as one of the rare sequels that actually does something different than just repeat the plot of the original. There's a very clever sequence where the rescue team find a camera belonging to the missing girls and in watching the footage double up a jump from the original. Outstanding!
There's less emotional resonance with the characters in The Descent: Part 2 and the caves don't quite look as real as they did first time round however the makers remembered that part of what made the first movie so damn effective was the sense of being trapped in enclosed spaces with the claustrophobic angle exhausted to the max.
The Descent: Part 2 wastes little time in setting up the premise and getting everyone down in the caves. The action kicks off and never eases up following one set-piece with yet another that never shies away from the brutality. Some of the gore is wince-inducing stuff such as when a character has his hand brutally chopped off.
The new characters don't quite have the oomph that the girls had in Marshall's flick and you can pretty much guess who won't be making it back out of the caves alive. The plot has bigger holes than the caves the characters struggle through.
The first Descent was flawless in all respects from the acting, the directing, the script. Here the name of the game is to have you jump from your seat and on that level it succeeds. Indeed if it wasn't for the sheer pace and the tense situations that arise in the caves you would be groaning at the implausibility of some of it. No matter, its main thrust is to entertain and, flaws aside, it does so in spades.
Special Features include a commentary by director Jon Harris, Shauna Macdonald, Krysten Cummings and Anna Skellern; a making off; deleted scenes with optional commentary; storyboard galleries; production design gallery and the theatrical trailer.