Descent: Part 2, The (UK - DVD R2)
Our Marcus follows Sarah back into the caves but he's keeping hold of the torch
A couple of days after the events of the first Descent, Sarah (Shauna MacDonald) emerges by a roadside and is taken to hospital. Still covered in her friends' blood, local sheriff, Vaines (Gavan O'Herlihy) assumes that Sarah’s missing cave explorers may have met a gory end by her hand.
Launching a rescue mission with deputy Elen Rios (Krysten Cummings) and three cave rescue specialists—Dan (Douglas Hodge), Greg (Joshua Dallas) and Cath (Anna Skellern)—the sheriff decides to bring Sarah along (despite her trauma and apparent memory loss) and the group descend back into the cave system that almost killed Sarah mere days before.
Right, once you get over the fact that any sheriff in the world would be able to take a murder suspect down a hazardous cave system, especially considering her mental state and obvious ordeal, The Descent: Part 2 actually winds up doing a pretty solid job at recreating the tension, claustrophobia and monster inspired jumps that the first film did.
I think I only saw the original movie once and despite not falling head over heels in love with it, like many critics and horror fans, I recall three things I thought it did very well—it presented the cave systems as a place I never wanted to be making for some genuine unease in the smaller spaces; it had a good set of baddies that were both vicious and believably vulnerable; and it knew how to lay on the barrels of blood.
The sequel doesn’t fall too far foul of the original's strengths. The caves feel a little faker but after about the half way point get decidedly more confined and scary. The Crawlers (you remember them—Gollum’s buddies) are even more gruesome and in turn means that the blood flow is high with even more grimy ways of spraying it. Oh, and as an added yuck factor, we get to see one poop this time out. Nice.
As for the story, it’s more of the same really but with Sarah a whole lot more knowing of the crawlers, which means a little more bad guy killing as opposed to our cave explorers having the disadvantage (not that this helps them for long). As I said before, I wasn’t giddy in love with the first, but I found this sequel to be pretty effective. Yeah, it’s got some issues with believability in places and it’s not exactly reinventing the wheel with its Alien-esq scares but editor of the original, now director of the sequel Jon Harris keeps a firm grasp of proceedings and doesn’t let the characters get too clichéd, all while upping the savage killings and finding enough new ways to try to make us all feel ill with the many puddles of blood his story generates.
I was actually very impressed with the transfer here, especially for standard DVD. I expected a lot of muddy, washed out dark scenes, but that wasn’t the case at all. The image remains sharp throughout, with very impressive black levels and some pretty effective lighting (though ask me where the source is coming from that deep underground and I’ll draw a blank).
Skin tones are fairly natural, detail is pretty great, especially with the crawlers' clammy skin and dirt covered bodies and when our characters get messy (and by golly do they get messy) everything looks great, without losing finer details like skin or clothes textures.
Essentially The Descent Part 2 is pretty quiet, creating the feeling of dark empty caves with the clinking of cave exploring equipment, rock scraping footsteps, dialogue echoes and water droplets. Of course this is all to lure you into a false sense of security because all this does is make the short sharp scares even more effective and there are plenty.
With regards to building the right atmosphere this works wonders, it’s not a particularly wide track but again this works to make you feel more confined. The crawlers' screeches can sometimes be a little grating and there are probably two or three too many predictable jumps where the volume levels are scarier than the actual visuals, but for the most part this is a balanced track that has enough aggression to do its job pretty well.
The commentary with Jon Harris, Shauna MacDonald, Krysten Cummings and Anna Skellern begins a little humdrum and not all that exciting despite the number of participants. The group admit that the track is being recorded the night after the premier, which explains the slow build up, but once they get going they’ve a few fun stories and enough to make it worth a listen if you’re a fan of the blossoming franchise.
'Deeper & Darker: Making of' (25:43) is split down into four chapters and provides a good catch up with the sequel and what elements are returning from the original.
There are nine deleted scenes (09:48) with optional commentary, most of which take place pre-cave and were obviously cut for pacing.
‘Storyboards’ offers up five drawn scenes set to music all running between one and two minutes and the 'Production Design Gallery’ (01:42) gives us a batch of photos.
Lastly, there’s the theatrical trailer (01:28).
For me, The Descent Part 2 manages to be a worthy sequel to the original, even if I have a bit of an issue with how the movie ends and exactly how that ties into the opening of the movie.
Spoiler Why did that old geezer in the van at the beginning of the movie take Sarah to hospital when it's revealed that he’s feeding people to the crawlers at the end?
The disc is solid, with a fine A/V presentation and a nice bunch of extras, so if you get your horror kicks from claustrophobia and dribbling Gollums with a taste for flesh, this sequel is well worth visiting.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 12th April 2010
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Audio Descriptive Service English
Extras: Commentary, Making of, Storyboards, Galley, Trailer, Deleted Scenes
Easter Egg: No
Director: Jon Harris
Cast: Shauna Macdonald, Gavan O'Herlihy, Krysten Cummings, Anna Skellern, Douglas Hodge, Joshua Dallas
Length: 89 minutes
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