The Descent : Part 2 (2009)

In 2005, The Descent became a surprise sleeper hit for Dog Soldiers director Neil Marshall, propelling him into the world of big budget free reign films such as Doomsday and the forthcoming Centurion. Naturally, with all things popular, a sequel was destined to crawl out of the darkness and assault us. Nervous of all things sequel, prequel or re-imagined, many audience members stepped into The Descent: Part 2 at London’s Frightfest in August expecting anything… and were pleasantly surprised.

Kicking off 24 hours after The Descent ended, Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) is found battered, bloodied and bruised at the roadside with little memory of her time in the uncharted cave system that led to her friends’ deaths. Determined to find the other missing girls, and especially the politically important Juno Kaplan, local redneck Sheriff Vaines recklessly drags Sarah back into the subterranean nightmare to locate the missing caving party. This completely insane decision to pull a wounded amnesiac back into the fresh hell she’d only just escaped from is not questioned by the small rescue party, who naturally notify no one of their intentions apart from a grumpy local pensioner. Descending into an old mineshaft, the group quickly discover that Sarah’s paranoia and trauma are not just the result of an accident, but something gut-rippingly nasty. With the return of another character from the first film, no prizes for guessing who, the tension mounts, angers flair and a cocktail of violence explodes across the screen.

For those familiar with the first film, you know what to expect down in the dark, and people’s insides soon begin to paint rocks red as the unfortunate rescuers struggle to escape this freshest of tombs.

The Descent: Part 2 deftly uses the same tools as the original, but it is far from perfect as the creators attempt to out-grotesque its predecessor with lashings of gore, pits of defecation and frequent jump scares. Neither is it free from cliché, ripping freely on the original and occasioning dropping into the territory of the laughably bad. When Sherriff Vaines asks what the crawlers are, he receives a very po-faced reply of “Death”, which is a battered horror cliché and certainly lacking in the gravitas it is supposed to bring. Despite being short of any significant backgrounds, the characters in general are likeable and therefore their subsequent deaths are brutal and upsetting. One particular cliff-hanging arm-severing is brilliant and memorable. Like the UK ending to the original Descent, the conclusion of The Descent: Part 2 might be a little baffling for some, but the film as a whole is genuinely enjoyable, scary and does nothing to damage the reputation of the original.

When treading over very familiar territory it is always tempting to create new rules from a workable formula, but the writers have steered clear of anything too alternative. The “crawlers” look slightly different from their previous incarnations, but otherwise the feel and tension of The Descent: Part 2 is very much in line with Neil Marshall’s excellent original. There are sly nods and homages throughout, and although it seems a little too soon to do this, it works well and it takes nothing from it. Featuring cameos from most of the previous cast in the form of corpses and video footage, The Descent: Part 2’s name isn’t just a gimmick as it feels like a real follow on from the original. Although not treading any new ground, it keeps the adrenaline levels high, the claret extreme and sticks firmly to the weighty themes of loyalty, sacrifice and revenge.

Shauna Macdonald does well in reprising her role as the long-suffering Sarah, and her trauma is well played out, especially the horrible moment when she regains her memory and realises exactly what she’s been thrown back into. New characters Sherriff Vaines and Deputy Rios are played well by Gavan O’Herlihy and Krysten Cummings, the latter giving a greatly sympathetic turn, whilst even the secondary characters are genuinely likeable and interesting. The original Descent worked because of a strong ensemble cast and this sequel has recognised the importance of this and used it to its fullest.

Although The Descent: Part 2 is basically unnecessary, it is not detrimental to the series. Gory, claustrophobic, terrifying and brutal, it is immensely enjoyable and will please anyone who liked the original. No one asked for a sequel, but now we have one and it’s surprisingly good.

Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.