Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Descent Part 2

Film: The Descent Part 2
Dir: Jon Harris
Rating: *** out of 5 stars

Neil Marshall’s The Descent was a lesson in pure terror, utilizing elements such as darkness, claustrophobia, and even the deep secrets that come back to haunt us. This sub-par sequel, helmed by first-time director Jon Harris, rehashes the first film rather than paving its own way. Much like Aliens was a cheaper copycat of its perfect predecessor, The Descent Part 2 simply repeats the story of the original movie only with less characterization this time around, and the raw terror has been largely replaced by cheap scares. For what it is, Harris does a decent job. The sequel has some cool moments, though mostly it just reminds us why we love The Descent.

The film picks up roughly where the American theatrical ending of the last film left off. Sarah, having escaped the caves, is picked up and taken to the hospital. The local police are looking for the missing women, and they need Sarah’s help to navigate the unexplored caverns from which she emerged. So just like a traumatized Ellen Ripley was convinced to go back to LV-426 on a “rescue” mission, Sarah, having lost her memory, is taken back into the caves. She gradually remembers the horror that unfolded here, and inevitably the rescue crew comes under attack from the blind, carnivorous cave-dwellers.

The movie’s first problem is that it follows the American ending of The Descent, which most horror fans (myself included) do not consider to be the true ending. It is fairly appropriate though, since that conclusion ended with a cheap jump-scare, and this sequel is comprised largely of those. Granted, they are somewhat effective – I never jump, and one scene in this got me. However, the same darkness and the same confined spaces just don’t have the same effect this time around. It seems like the characters move effortlessly through the rocks when being chased.

One or two crawler scenes are well-done, but they are often marred by cheap-looking FX. The FX are not terrible, but they are not particularly good either. The creatures inexplicably look less creepy this time around. Instead, they just spew a lot of blood and drool. Furthermore, B-movies aside, blood should never look milky and pink as it does here. It distracted me every time. Also, seeing someone sprayed in the mouth with blood gets old after 3 or 4 times – it approaches the absurdity of the Feast sequels here. A misplaced poop joke in the film also did not help.

Among average Hollywood horror films, The Descent Part 2 is not half-bad. It will be tense, bloody, and scary enough for some. Just do not expect a film of the same caliber as its predecessor – or even close. Jon Harris is a fine editor, so I am holding out hope that he will make something better with his next directorial effort. This sequel is a cheap imitation, but fans of Neil Marshall’s film should still watch it, if only to see where the story goes and view some “missing” footage of The Descent’s ill-fated heroines. Just make sure you do not have plans after the movie, as it will no doubt make you want to pop the original DVD in when you are done.