The original Descent is one of the greatest horror movies of the ’00s – fresh, exciting, surprising, with a finale that was absolutely horrifying. There was absolutely no reason to shoot a sequel aside from the prospect of separating the original’s fans from their money.
Unfortunately, that was reason enough for the producers of The Descent: Part 2.
I could even overlook that if the sequel was good, scary fun. No luck on that front. The Descent: Part 2 relies on the characters making unfathomably stupid decisions to advance the plot. Seriously, Forrest Gump would have a better chance of survival than these Mensa rejects. The first hour is agonizingly dull and when director Jon Harris finally cuts loose with the gore and monster action, it’s not only too little, too late, it’s laughably cheesy to boot. The Descent: Part 2 has a couple of good performances from Anna Skellern as a rescue worker and Shauna Macdonald, back from the original, but even with two good actresses and a nifty surprise late in the game, the sheer awfulness of the movie is too much to overcome.
The Descent: Part 2 begins right where the original left off – a device that’s becoming de riguer for horror sequels. Sarah (Macdonald) runs screaming from the Appalachain woods and is promptly taken to a hospital. Meanwhile, a rescue operation has been working for days to locate the rest of the missing cavers with no luck, so Sarah represents their best chance to find them. Sheriff Vaines (Gavin O’Herlihy) goes beyond seeing if Sarah’s lucid enough to answer questions, though; he yanks her from her hospital bed and drags her back into the caves with the rescue team. Color me wacky, but I tend to think that dragging a physically and emotionally traumatized woman out of a hospital against her will is a little south of legal. Might just be me, though.
Now we’ve got six people on the killing floor and that’s enough victims to string out a horror show to 90 minutes. Despite the team leader’s stern warnings, Vaines insists on bringing his gun into the caves. When the horror of being back in the caves overcomes Sarah, she freaks and runs, and naturally Vaines fires on her, triggering a rock fall. Really, if you’re going spelunking, listen to the experienced folks who know a whole hell of a lot more than you do. You’re less likely to be eaten by monsters in the dark that way.
As dumb as the set-up is, it splits up the party so that the crawlers, the sub-human monsters who terrorized Sarah and her friends in the original, can chow down on fresh meat. While The Descent: Part 2 has been pretty crappy up to now, this is the tipping point where everything goes to Hell in a handbasket. The Descent’s characters were strong, smart, and resourceful. They were likable and the sense that they had a slight chance of escaping their predicament created genuine suspense. The Descent: Part 2 is an assembly line of slaughter, no different than any bargain basement slasher movie, except that this one’s set in caves with awful set design. Seriously, it’s almost as bad as the old Star Trek episodes where they’d toss up a backdrop and fling a couple of paper mache boulders onto the set, trying to pass it off as a strange new world.
The Descent: Part 2 isn’t as awful as most low-budget direct-to-DVD horror flicks, but being better than Sorority Massacre 72 doesn’t necessarily make you good, either. The only thing it has in common with the original is the setting and star. All the thrills, chills, and excitement of the first movie are conspicuous by their absence. Skellern’s good as one of the rescue workers and Macdonald’s fun to watch once she gets to do more than twitch and tremble, but most of the time, I just felt sorry for them, wishing they had gotten a better gig. If you want a really frightening movie about nasty things in caves, watch The Descent. It’s great. You’ll love it. The Descent: Part 2 seems perversely calculated to disappoint fans and newcomers alike, and you’ll weep over the dollar you spent at the video kiosk to rent it.