Notable Cast: Shauna Macdonald, Joshua Dallas, Natalie Jackson Mendoza
Review: So I was going to review Brooklyn’s Finest this week, but when given the opportunity to catch a free viewing of the sequel to one of my favorite horror movies in the last few years, The Descent, I couldn’t pass it up. It’s sequel was released over seas in theater’s, but for some reason will not see any US theater releases and just gets a straight to DVD release at the end of the month. My decision was also made a little easier when faced with the choice of spending 12 bucks on Brooklyn’s Finest, or saving it for a movie I have much more interest in. So how did it measure up? Despite the fact that it’s going straight to DVD here, I kept my hopes up for a better quality sequel than a Smokin’ Aces 2: Assassin’s Ball type garbage heap. The Descent: Part 2 follows directly after the events that occurred in the last movie, and it’s not before long before we are returning to the same terrifying cave we were led through in the first. But how could people be let right back into a cave where so man grisly deaths just took place? The film really tried to capture a lot of the aspects that were so horrific in the first movie, but I also feel like it was lacking the same overall creepiness that the original possessed. The sequel felt like it was thrown out there to answer a lot of the questions you were left with at the end of the first movie, but make extreme stretches to do so. I wouldn’t say it jumped ship and sold out or anything because it’s still better than a lot of the horror films released today (just watched the Friday the 13th remake for example), but if you’re expecting the same quality as the original don’t hold your breath.
If you saw The Descent, you know it’s about a group of friends/adventurers that take a trip to the Appalachian Mountains for a cave exploring experience. One of the girls, Juno (Mendoza), tells them they are venturing into a charted cave, but when they get trapped inside reveals she has led them into an uncharted cavern so they could all discover it for themselves. Tensions run high when they realize no one knows where they are and they don’t where any path in the cave leaves. And then they uncover the big cherry on top; the cave is inhabited by vicious creatures hell-bent on turning every single one of them into a meal. (Since the film has been out since 2005, and in order to understand some of my problems with the sequel, I’m just going to jump right to the ending. So if you want to see the first Descent, I suggest you stop reading right now and go watch it. If not, you’ve been warned.) When it gets to the end, Sarah (Macdonald) is the only survivor, and she is last seen curled up alone in one of the many compartments in the cave. The camera pans to darkness, and the credits roll. This is almost exactly where The Descent: Part 2 picks up. We see the rescue efforts going on two days after the group of friends failed to report they were out of the cave, but we know that the workers are actually searching the wrong cave. Cut to a random townsman driving down a country road, and Sarah running up to the truck for help. Sarah has somehow escaped an untimely demise in the cave we last saw her trapped in, and is taken to the hospital to be treated for wounds. When the local sheriff (O’herlihy) hears of the lone survivor, he uses a dog to trace her tracks and it leads back to an abandon mineshaft, which is an opening back into the hellish cave that killed all of her friends. Too bad for Sarah she has memory loss that prevents her from recalling anything we saw in the last movie, and the sheriff convinces her to join them in the expedition to find Juno and the rest. Inside the cave she starts to remember small segments from the past, until suddenly it all hits her in one traumatic wave of repressed memories. She tries to warn the group they are all in danger, but of course no one believes her. This is all happening while the creatures lick their lips in anticipation for another hunt that is about to be under way, we can only assume. Suddenly the rescue mission turns into a fight for survival as another group of people try to fight their way out of the cave that has claimed so many lives already.
So what problems did I have with a film that basically does the same thing as the first? Yes, it’s about people trapped in a cave again fighting off creatures that are blind and rely on sound to see again. (Sorry, never mentioned that in the plot description) Usually if you see a movie you like, wouldn’t you think if they gave you the same plot with just different characters it would be equally enjoyable to you? This is true to an extent, but Part 2 of the series spends too much time trying to bring you closure on the last movie. They try to tie up all those loose ends in pretty little bows so you can stop rationalizing your own thoughts on what happened. But while trying to do so, the film opens up a whole new plethora of questions, these being even harder to believe than in the first movie. There is also little explanation to how these conclusions happened also, like Sarah escaping for example. She says the water, which must have taken two days based on the rescuer’s time line, washed her out. So that’s two days spent following water in a cave full of creatures that were able to stealthily maul each one of her friends with simple ease. And we are supposed to just accept Sarah made it out. I personally loved the ending of the last, because it was a big “Fuck You” to the happy endings of so many movies where the hero or heroine are able to get away barley. And now that she lives, it takes away from the power of that ending because if I were to watch it again, I’d know “oh don’t worry about her, she lives even though she’s trapped in the dark by herself with murderous monsters that know she’s still alive.” And that isn’t even the worst of the question the second brings up. A huge twist occurs about halfway through the movie that literally had me saying “there is no ‘effing way” over, and over, and over again. I couldn’t buy it for a minute. But again, this is how the movie faltered in trying to bring closure, but creating even more disclosure than before.
The ending sequence was probably my least favorite part of the movie, having a series of events that didn’t even need to happen. You’ll watch and be screaming at the TV, astonished at how ridiculous the characters are acting, only to totally let you down. It’s completely obvious they left the ending open so they could make a Part 3 if they ever feel like it, or need a paycheck, but I can already tell it would be a wasted effort if the quality keeps decreasing. There are only so many times you can take the same location and have characters keep funneling in before you start to ask “wouldn’t someone notice people aren’t coming back?” The end tries to catch you off guard and leave you on a cliffhanger, but in my opinion ultimately fails on all accounts and instead becomes unbelievable.
I also noticed during the movie I didn’t have the same reaction to the creatures as I did before. I feel like they were less menacing looking and their features were toned down a little bit. They were more humanized to an extent. The eyes especially I noticed. They almost had human eyes where in the first film they had a more solid colored black eye like you would see on an animal. I know it’s a small difference, but it made that much more of a difference when watching the film because the creatures struck a little less fear every time they were on-screen. This also resulted in a decline in the whole tone of the movie, and moved it closer to a cheaper budget thriller whereas the first film looked amazing. Going beyond the creatures, the whole atmosphere was let up on a little bit having better lighting and better visibility, whereas a lot of tension in the first came from not knowing what was ahead of the woman, lurking in the darkness. Being able to see certain death coming at you is one thing, but imagine staring ahead into blackness, praying you were lucky enough to have a clear path ahead of you and not having something staring you dead in the eyes that you can’t even see. I don’t know about you, but I’m going down fighting and in order to do that I need to be able to at least see. Fighting in the dark? Yea, not much of a chance there.
But as much as I’ve been comparing it to the first, in all fairness it was not a failure of a movie at all. It still manages to convey the terror of being stuck in a cave without even knowing how to get out. Maybe this plays extra hard on me because of my fears of claustrophobia, but the setting is perfect for a horror film. You constantly have the feeling of being trapped with no way out; especially when the characters have to crawl through the tightest tunnels possible. The cave itself almost feels like a giant coffin, having the characters just staring at the walls in hopes of a miracle. It’s also full of tunnels so tight you can only see in front of you, having no idea what could be crawling up behind you. The atmosphere is flat-out horrifying. This is what helps set The Descent aside from other lesser horror movies, using a productive combination of both atmosphere and monsters, instead of just one of those aspects.
Although The Descent: Part 2 could not live up to the accomplishments of the first, it doesn’t mean the movie is a waste. If you want to see this film, I would definitely make sure you saw the original movie. Even if you don’t want to see this film, I still suggest seeing The Descent if you are even remotely a horror fan. As for Part 2? If you want to ask yourself even more questions than the first left you with, trust me when I say you won’t be disappointed. This is by no means a must watch and would totally understand anyone passing this over and just stopping with the original, but if you even have the slightest interest, I’d say go for it. You could find a lot worse films to waste your time on.
Final Rating: 6 more hopeless victims out of 10