The Descent: Part 2
The gore-splattered sequel to 2005’s The Descent, which provided some genuine chills and the fuzzy feeling you get from a British film doing well, sadly isn’t quite up to the high standard set by the original. Editor Jon Harris replaces Dog Soldiers helmsman Neil Marshall in the director’s chair, and without the latter’s careful eye to detail – and his ability to get the best performances possible from his cast – The Descent: Part 2 ultimately lacks the punch and originality of the earlier release.
Spelunking Goes Splatter
The film focuses primarily on the ill-fated rescue mission to locate the missing (presumed eaten) from the original. Elderly mountain resident Ed (Michael J Reynolds) is accosted by The Descent’s sole survivor Sarah Carter (Shauna MacDonald). Local Sheriff Redmond Vaines (Gavan O’Herlihy) races to the scene and quickly surmises that Sarah must have murdered her pals, due mainly to the amount of gore she’s chalked up on her caving boots. He entreats deputy Elen Rios (Krysten Cummings) to interrogate Sarah and tease out a confession. Alas, the questioning leads nowhere but the sheriff refuses to accept Sarah’s silence. Instead, he demands that she venture back underground to jog her fractured memory and lead them to the missing quintet. Experienced rescue volunteer Dan Shepherd (Douglas Hodge) leads the subterranean mission, accompanied by Greg (Joshua Dallas) and feisty rookie Cath (Anna Skellern). It’s isn’t long before the carnvorious beasties known as Crawlers are back, scaling the walls and jumping out of shadows.
The Crawlers were one of the most impressive and effective aspects of the first Descent, with their blobby, ill-formed, albino faces looking truly like something out of a nightmare – some mangled cross between a salamander and Pete Burns. The all-female cast of the original didn’t actually see the creatures until it was time to film with them, and the sense of genuine shock came across. The same can’t be said here, sadly. The grotesque design has been sidelined in favour of fairly bog-standard prosthetics, turning the crawlers into bat-goblin hybrids that have lost much of the degenerated humanity that made the originals so creepy.
One welcome return, however, is the sense of claustrophobia that made the original so compelling. There really is the feeling of having your arms trapped at your sides, a tangible sense that escape is nigh-on impossible. As the film gears up for the final act the claustrophobia is markedly heightened, and it’s in these last forty minutes that The Descent: Part 2 begins to get effective. Sadly, the shallow characters don’t really engage, and while you’re excited by the finale, it’s difficult to care about the fate of the luckless spelunkers.
For those who enjoyed the original, Part 2 may well come as a bit of a disappointment. It has its moments and is fairly pacey but ultimately doesn’t do anything new or fresh, and with horrors like Paranormal Activity raking in the box office bucks, that’s pretty much like throwing your cash in a big, dark hole.