Lionsgate // 2009 // 94 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Daniel Carlton (Retired) // April 27th, 2010
Fear runs deep. Revenge runs deeper.
Many times sequels are created simply to cash in on the sometimes unexpected success of a film. There might be a changing of the guard as a new director and writer are quickly hired by the studio, and thus begins the rehashing process. The Descent: Part 2 is better than most sequels, but does rely heavily on the formula that worked with The Descent. There isn't much of a progression to the series with Part 2, but the violence is as entertaining as it was first go-round. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Hospitalized and a mental wreck, Sarah remembers next to nothing from the spelunking expedition that ended only two short days before. The five other women are missing and the sheriff suspects foul play, forcing Sarah back into the caves to look for survivors alongside a team of rescuers. With only brief flashbacks from her previous adventure, Sarah quickly realizes that the caves are not a safe place to be. After a minor cave in, the team is split up only to realize that they have much bigger problems than simply finding each other or the way out.
For a film that relies so heavily on the formula of the first outing, The Descent: Part 2 holds together fairly well. Director Jon Harris (The Descent, Kick Ass) sticks to the claustrophobic tone that made the original so effectively uncomfortable. Sure, the story is just an excuse to bring people back into the caves for more underground anarchy, but the intelligent characters once again provide much credibility to the story. The first installment was an unexpected surprise because the six females heading into the caves were not the usual ditsy females we see in most horror films. These women were smart, resolute and we wanted them to survive. Instead of a drivel filled script, the characters were rational and forced us to take them seriously. The Descent: Part 2 again gives us intelligent characters; although to a slightly lesser degree because in essence they are here to die and entertain, not survive and overcome.
What Harris does extremely well is create an atmosphere of pure claustrophobia, which was one of the most jarring aspects of The Descent. The searchers descend into the caves using an exposed elevator in which walls of the shaft crawl by with only inches of clearance on any side. From that point on, the feeling is tight, tight, tight. Once the searchers reach the bottom, they take turns shuffling through holes one by one, occasionally getting stuck and needing the assistance of another rescuer. This claustrophobic feel is enhanced by the use of light, or lack of lighting I should say. For a large portion of the film, the only light comes from the flashlights of the rescuers, thus emphasizing the absolute pitch blackness of any area not being directly lit. There are no shadows. It was obvious that extra lighting was used later in the film, which did detract from the previous realism, but by that time the monsters were in full attack mode, so who cares about lighting anyway.
Speaking of attack mode, this film is bloody. Gloriously bloody. We get several squirting necks, a couple of severed parts and some good old fashion foot to jaw action. This movie isn't for the squeamish, so if you can't stand the site of blood or your aim is to woo your date with a romantic dinner and a movie at home, this probably isn't the one. On the other hand, if you want to see a tough, Lara Croft-esque female lead kicking some major monster butt, this will not disappoint. Chances are, readers of this review are fully aware of what they are getting into.
The Descent: Part 2 doesn't reach the depths of suspense the first film did, simply because the audience knows from the outset what the creatures look like. The fear factor of The Descent stemmed from hearing sounds, but not seeing what sort of creature was making it. In this film, it takes maybe thirty minutes to see the first creature on screen. This is actually addressed in the commentary and the studio pressed the director to get to the caves within a short period of time. The studio was right in not wanting to postpone off the inevitable since the audience knows what is going to happen. Rescuers are going to head into the caves and get chopped up by monsters. Since all of the mystery has been stripped away, we're left with a straight ahead monster movie. I relate this film to Jaws 2, a sequel that in no way could have lived up to its predecessor, but was leagues better than anyone was expecting. On top of that, moviegoers headed to Jaws 2 for one reason, to see people getting eaten by a mechanical shark. The same idea applies here.
The DVD looks fabulous and deserves to be viewed on a HDTV capable of deep blacks. For the caves to be fully effective, the lack of light is the key. As referenced above, there is a full length commentary by director Jon Harris and three of the female actors. I've listened to enough commentaries to find most of them to be the same sort of thing. This falls into the usual people-talking-about-the-film category with the standard discussions taking place, except this commentary is full of British accents. Three bonus points rewarded. Also on the DVD are a making of featurette, deleted scenes and storyboards. Interestingly, there were two unused opening sequences, with and without credits. Considering a not previously discussed twist in the story, it makes sense as to why the director chose the opening he did.
Fans of The Descent will very likely be entertained by Part 2. The action is brutal and more than gratifying for lovers of gore. The story is nothing spectacular, but it does get the civilians back into the cave to serve their sole purpose of dying.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes