The sequel to one of the scariest monster movies in recent memory has come to DVD, skipping a theatrical release entirely - at least in the U.S. Direct-to-DVD sequels are usually a sign of something foul, but there are gems to be found on occasion. The Descent: Part 2, unfortunately, is not one of those films, but some scary moments and bloody sequences makes it worthwhile.
Depending on which version you saw, it may not make sense that there are returning characters for the sequel. After all, in the original British version (SPOILER ALERT), we learn that Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) has not escaped as originally thought and instead is still miles underground, the creatures closing in. Thankfully, afraid to depress American audiences, Lionsgate cut out the final scene when it was released stateside, allowing Sarah to actually see the light of day once more.
Enter the sequel. Sarah has somehow lost her car from the first film (and her memory) and is found by a local, who turns her over to authorities. In shock, she can't remember what happened to her or her friends, though she is covered in their blood. Conveniently, for some odd reason, the local sheriff forces this traumatized woman back underground to search for her dead friends. You can guess the rest.
"Guess," however, is a soft word. You know what is going to happen, because The Descent: Part 2 is almost identical to the original, except it is cheesier, dumber and less terrifying.
Directed by Jon Harris, the editor of the first film, the movie looks, feels and sounds like the original, which is great. The way he and writers James McCarthy, J. Blakeson and James Watkins incorporate the scenes and dead bodies from the first film is quite intriguing, and really make the movie feel like a proper continuation.
Except Harris can only attempt to replicate the terror of the first film. Where The Descent relied just as much on the slow emergence of the creatures, Harris seems only capable of evoking fear by having the creatures jump in front of the camera at predictable moments. The monsters seem dumber, louder and less threatening than before, which is a part of what made the original work so well. The characters too are less interesting and lack depth, something that wasn't a problem before.
Harris literally copies camera shots from the original as liberally as the screenwriters copy plot elements. A cave-in? Check. A fight in a pool of disgusting ooze? Check. A climax in the feeding area, followed by a desperate climb up a hillside covered in animal bones? Check, check check. The movie is, literally, a copy of the original at times.
But the main problem with The Descent: Part 2 is that it's so much cheesier than the original. Clearly working with a smaller budget, the set pieces don't seem quite right. Furthermore, the bright-red blood and a focus on over-the-top gore makes the picture fun to watch, but much less frightening. In one scene, a woman kills a monster with her bobby pin, and that's only one of several "what-the-f**k" moments. Don't get me started on the out-of-left-field ending.
Nevertheless, The Descent: Part 2 is still fairly entertaining, and as long as you're able to embrace its on-and-off-again cheesiness you should fine enough to enjoy. It's not nearly as scary, but The Descent: Part 2 is an adequate sequel.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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