How does one begin to convey the sheer awfulness of “The Descent: Part Two”, a sequel both uninspired and painfully unnecessary? Let’s start with the plot. It’s ridiculous - insultingly so. Now I’m assuming you’ve all seen the first film, Neil Marshall's excellent 2005 chthonian chiller “ The Descent ”. If not, take heed, its spoiler alert code red for those yet to experience the originals gut-wrenchingly visceral and claustrophobic delights.
As sole survivor of an all-female caving expedition that went horribly awry, Sarah (Shauna MacDonald) has some explaining to do. After all she’s just been found roaming in the mountains wailing like a banshee and soaked in the blood of her friends - unfortunate victims of the subterranean humanoid “Crawler” beasties.
Local cop Vaines (Gavan O’Herlihy) is under pressure to get results, especially since one of Sarah’s missing gal pals, Juno Kaplan (Natalie Jackson Mendoza), just so happens to be the daughter of a senator.
Following the failure of a specialist rescue team to negotiate the Crawlers cave system, guess who Vaines has in mind to guide an expedition back down into the troglodyte infested hell-hole? Thats right. The weakened, traumatised Sarah. Thus a mere two days after the blood curdling events of the first film our unstable heroine, Officer Vaines who is pushing 60, his mild mannered deputy Rios (Krysten Cummings) and a cave rescue trio set out on what will prove to be a doomed mission.
And there you have the paper-thin premise of this sloppy sequel that contradicts its predecessor’s powerfully downbeat ending. Sadly, it would seem the inferior North American theatrical cut of The Descent has become canon.
Once the action kicks off underground the remainder of the runtime can be condensed as follows; players blunder from one unconvincing soundstage-as-cave to the next, something forces their separation before a token lemming gets picked off and a few Crawlers come a cropper. Rinse and repeat. Supporting characters are mere stock in trade horror cyphers (Vaines the token asshole, our professional cave explorers no more than Crawler fodder to ensure the violence quotient is met etc.) while there’s no real emotional investment to be had with Sarah on this, her second trip around the block.
A sequel should at the very least aspire to equal its predecessor if not exceed it. The Descent 2 not only fails in terms of meaningful character development but also misses the opportunity to expand upon the Crawler mythos. In the first instalment we witnessed the feeding chamber; a pit of congealing offal that revealed the murderous extent of the Crawler appetite. Sarah was forced to fight her way out of the human gruel in memorably nasty scene. What’s the best Part Two can muster? A pit of poop which our heroine finds herself neck-deep in, yes, Crawlers go Number Two just like you and I.
Apart from tantalising allusions as to a possible connection between the beasts and an old mining community we learn little else and more importantly see nothing new in this dire rehash. The gore is a bore, consisting mainly of repetitious Crawler throat-rips and human dealt head bashings. In fact so bereft of invention is the piece that Director Jon Harris sees fit to indulge in a frame for frame regurgitation of Sarah’s transcendent slo-mo upward dash to freedom from the original.
Overall visually the film is flat and bland, the atmospheric colour palette of Part One with its flare-cast greens and torchlight golds nowhere in evidence. The production design poor throughout. CGI work where it exists is dire and the whole sorry enterprise is topped off with one of the most unintentionally hilarious “shock” endings of recent years involving an Appalachian hillbilly and a shovel.
However to give the film its due there is one genuinely unpleasant scene, a veritable terror trifecta involving tight-space confinement, a female in peril and one slavering Crawler. Unfortunately there aren’t any other moments of its calibre and this solitary flash of brilliance only serves to highlight squandered potential. Alas, how scarier the proceedings could have been.
The Descent Part 2 is the product of a mercenary penchant that pervades the movie business, the desire to squeeze a few more greasy dimes from past successes whatever the artistic cost. Coming four years too late to be of any relevance this sequel sullies the name of what was arguably the finest British horror of the noughties, a film that was on the fast-track to becoming a bona fide classic.