The Descent: Part 2 (Review)

With “mostly” new victims!

This would be more appropriately titled The Descent Part 1 – Redone with mostly new victims!

I am indeed one of those guys that rolls his eyes with the announcement of every unnecessary sequel and English language remake, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t watch them or want them to suck.

Far from it. In fact hearing that there would likely be a Die Hard 5 recently didn’t send me to the net to piss and moan, even though it will likely be awful. I want desperately for it to be good, however unlikely that might be. But I am steeling myself for the probability that it will suck and will watch it regardless of the review.

Why? Because I like movies, and making a movie has risks, and I hold out hope that whatever these guys come up with will be entertaining. That’s why I watched The Hills Have Eyes, and will likely watch A Nightmare on Elm Street and The Crazies. They’ll probably suck… but you never know until they make ‘em and I watch ‘em.

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To date the only films that I have reviewed that would be in my All Time Top 10 might be Major League, and possibly Police Story 2 would hover around the fringes. This is because I think I know the films too well now to review them subjectively, and more accurately my crappy writing might not do them justice.

The Descent is firmly in that Top 10 somewhere (and in the Top 5 for the dubbos), and even though it is only a few years old I have already watched it 5 or 6 times. I have hung out to see the sequel and just prayed it wasn’t like Blair Witch 2 or Warlock 2, or even The Ring 2 or The Hills Have Eyes 2 for that matter, basically pale imitations of the originals.

My doubts and trepidation weren’t eased by the constant release date revisions and ultimate decision to allow this to go straight to DVD.

Now since The Descent came out in 2005 and became a critical and box office success (at least when measured against budget) there have been hundreds of shitty horror films released to cinemas. I should know, I’ve watched an awful lot of them:

Offal like Daybreakers, The Collector, Jennifer’s Body, Sorority Row, Halloween 1 & 2, Prom Night, My Bloody Valentine, The Unborn, Orphan & The Uninvited.

Even though The Descent is unfortunately a couple rungs below the standard set by the original, it is head and shoulders above all of those, yet it went straight to DVD.

I tell ya I just don’t get Hollywood.

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Part 2 kicks in almost immediately after the conclusion of the events of the original, with Sarah having escaped and finding help. Above ground it appears that for the two days that the 6 girls were missing a search party was scouring the wrong area. (This is because Juno took the original team to an unexplored cave, not the planned one, with results they could never have begun to predict!)

Once Sarah shows she is immediately admitted to hospital, and despite her ordeal and fragile state is almost instantly grilled for info. It wasn’t named here but I have heard it called Post Traumatic Stress, in any case she has no recollection of events and no idea if there are any survivors, or where they might be.

Cartoony cop Sheriff Lynch (who looks like Brian Dennehy after a three week bender) is sceptical, and once it is uncovered that Juno is the daughter of a VIP, he is determined to “get to the bottom of this”.

Fast Forward to later that same day: 3 experienced cavers and 2 cops (including lynch), along with (a pretty much out of it) Sarah follow a local to a mine shaft, where they are lowered into the cave structure. This plot device is very reminiscent to Aliens, where an unwilling Ripley is dragged along to be asked “does this look Alien to you?”.

Note: I am not describing characters in any detail, the fun in most horror movies is guessing who will live, who will die horribly and who most deserves to make it.

Once in the cave system Sarah still can’t recall specifics, but has enough going on upstairs to sense this isn’t going to go well, and after they find an unfortunate victim of the first film she does a bolt with Lynch in hot pursuit.

Of course Lynch is a little over-zealous in his methods and a rockfall is triggered that traps one of the cavers, her partners promise to find a way of freeing her, but as the path back is blocked must find an alternative route.

Now split into singles or at best pairs, a couple come across a camcorder used by the original team, and in a clever scene they maximise the best scare from the first film by having something of a “reveal behind the reveal” moment.

From here on in it is every human and slimy skinned, thick saliva spouting, sightless, screeching cave dwelling carnivore for themselves.

Along the way it must be said that the best bits are very similar to the most effective scenes from the first film, even using the same areas and working evidence from the first film into Part 2’s proceedings.

Sarah is now steely and hard-nosed, and after everything that went on in the original and being thrown back into the creature’s lair who can blame her? She has one singular purpose: escape, and is resourceful and as dogged as the lunatics that look to make a name for themselves in nature docos where they take on dangerous animals, only look how well that went for Mr Irwin.

The filmmaker this time around was not Neil Marshall who wrote and directed the original, but the new team very smartly got him aboard in some capacity, and used similar music, credits and even camera angles to give fans of the first reference points when watching this film.

It was a good idea to not just have the massive killfest or gore-filled slaughter that is the death of many sequels, but the very fact that they sent another 6 down made it pretty obvious that this was less a sequel than a reimagining of sorts.

In fact, if they trimmed 40 minutes out of this, removed the credits from the first film and made a few subtle changes they could have had a two hour masterpiece. But the reality is what we have here is a slightly less effective doppelganger to the original, with some good scares and some memorable scenes.

More than anything it doesn’t piss on the memory of the first film.

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But I can’t leave without pointing out 3 flaws in Part 2; one is minor, one is major, and the last is a huge missed opportunity which involves SPOILERS!

1/ The caving scenes don’t look near as dangerous this time around.

Perhaps it is because in the first I didn’t know that the crawlers were eventually going to appear, but the early scenes in the first film made me cringe, not least because I am claustrophobic.

But I am still claustrophobic and the cavers always seem to have more room to move in Part 2, and that for me is the scary part, not the darkness but the thought that every wiggle or movement might render you immobile and unable to escape.

2/ The ending to this film SUCKS!!

I don’t know what they were trying to achieve and I won’t go into spoiler territory here but my god, the last minute or so left a bitter taste in my mouth. Even if it were logical or plausible (and it was neither of those things), what is wrong with a 90 minute film with some good scares and credits signifying the conclusion.

If you reach for the sky sometimes you fall on your face.

3/ Comes after the Final Rating.

But it does have major SPOILERS in it. You have been warned.

Final Rating – 7.5 / 10. A worthy sequel to a classic, albeit very familiar in tone and content. Slightly tarnished by a horrendously misdirected ending, but don’t let 90 seconds ruin the 90 minutes that preceded it.

SPOILERS BELOW!

(I want to say “after the jump”, nut I have no idea what they means. Can anyone tell me?)

SPOILERS!

SPOILERS!

SPOILERS!

COWS! COWS! COWS!

SPOILERS!!!

OK. At the end of the original Sarah did a bolt and left Juno for dead. Depending on which ending you saw (and I saw both) Sarah herself likely died or she escaped and had a vision of Juno shortly after. Neither fitted seamlessly here but in any case that is irrelevant now.

Juno isn’t dead, anyone who reads the poster or checks any review or imdb.com credits would already know that. Dumb decision by the filmmakers, as the die-hards are already unsure thanks to the ambiguous ending of Part 1, throw them off the trail by leaving her uncredited Kevin Spacey in Se7en style, and by the time she pops up about an hour in most would have already thought “well maybe she did die” and it is a genuine shock when she appears.

Also, they have her show up unannounced to help Sheriff Lynch out when he is under threat of crawler death. Why not go the whole hog; don’t announce she is in it, and have her suddenly and unexpectedly come face-to-face with her nemesis Sarah?

(In this they make a song and dance of having Sarah explain why Juno and her hate each other, for no reason other than to tell newbies to The Descent universe that what is about to happen in this film is dramatic.)

Anyway, just my opinion. When the first film ends with such a moral dilemma, and you make a second where the best bits are simply replicas of bits in the first film, why not take the most powerful element of the first and expand on it?

If you liked The Descent, at least give Part 2 a shot.

Fin.

About OGR

While I try to throw a joke or two into proceedings when I can all of the opinions presented in my reviews are genuine. I don't expect that all will agree with my thoughts at all times nor would it be any fun if you did, so don't be shy in telling me where you think I went wrong... and hopefully if you think I got it right for once. Don't be shy, half the fun is in the conversation after the movie.
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