Friday, May 21, 2010

Aw, us amerikens r sew darn dumm

Making a sequel to a film that, by many accounts (mine included) is the best horror movie to debut this century is no easy feat. How do you follow up one of cinema’s most pleasantly terrifying surprises without pooping all over fans expectations?
Well The Descent 2 does KIND of literally poop on viewers

(thank goodness this film was shot before the ubiquitous craze of 3D)

...but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun. Think of it as a surprisingly edible slice from an upstate NY pizzeria: not especially good, but surpassing the below-zero expectations you probably had based on the fact that that the sauce looked questionable, the crusts lacked character, and the restaurant’s name was “Donald’s Pizza and Diet Delights”
Quick Plot: Two days after the disappearance of Juno & Co., a raving (and conveniently amnesiac) Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) is discovered covered in her friends’ blood type by a dirty Appalachian Yankees fan (boo, hiss, foreshadows of evil). Hesitant to draw too much media coverage, town sheriff Vaines (Gavan O’Herlihy, playing a surlier cross between Tom Atkins and Lost’s Mr. Friendly) orders a rescue team to quietly venture underground, himself, deputy, and suspicious Sarah in tow.

It doesn’t take long for some Very Bad Things to happen, mostly thanks to the full-swing stupidity of a good ol’ American boy and his trigger happy ways. A gunshot causes a rock fall, which turn turns a lot of separated spelunkers into easy pickings for familiar crawlers.
If you haven’t seen The Descent--scratch that. Of course you have. You wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t, so if you ARE here and you HAVEN’T, then you’ve discovered some sort of non-reality in this universe that may or may not be the ending of Lost. 

And I'm not ready for that.

So yes. You’ve seen The Descent, and thusly have a pretty good idea of what to expect in its follow-up. More cave dwellers. More closeups of Batboy lookalikes screeching to the stalagmite skies. Strong women that can kick ass and, most likely, do non-girl pushups while still looking hot. Lots of British accents despite the film being set in the American south.
These points are not necessarily bad. For all its contrived plotting (are non-soap operas even ALLOWED to use ‘short-term amnesia’ for major explanations?), The Descent 2 is actually one of the more respectful sequels to be made, taking its time to homage its predecessors via visuals and character. At times, it feels uninspired and merely lazy but on the other hand, that’s the very nature of unambitious sequels with prominent write-ups in Fangoria.

This is not Neil Marshall’s surprise masterpiece. Where the original was considered everything from a study in female power dynamics to an analogy of US foreign policy, The Descent 2 is its kid sister tripping around the house in Mom’s high heels. The scares are more gutty than primal and characters display about as much intelligence as the subscribing constituent of The Weekly World News (those keeping Batboy in business), but as directed by The Descent’s editor Jon Harris, this is a fun enough romp that more than entertained me for 93.5 minutes.

High Points
An early ick-scare involving a corpse and surprise squatter is a pleasantly gross jump
While The Descent 2 never quite captures the claustrophobic horror so suffocating in its original, one character’s quick realization that she’s near-buried in treacherous rocks is actually quite scary and sad

Low Points
What worked so well about Juno’s villainy in the orignal was the complexity of her responsibility. Yes, she did a very stupid thing leading her friends into an abyss, but it came from a brash, overconfident and believable place mixed with residual guilt. By contrast, Vaines’ decision to go cave-diving and his execution in doing so is simply idiotic and the sign of a man afflicted with severe mental retardation.
So we can all totally agree that those last 30 seconds never happened, yes?
Lessons Learned
Americans are bad people who inevitably mess everything up
The most appropriate uniform for fighting carnivorous cave people is a smoking pair of hot pants
When investigating the disappearance of five physically adept women underground in unchartered and unstable caves, it’s best to not tell a single other authority figure where you’re actually going

Just because you have handcuffs in your pocket does not mean you have to use them
For curiosity alone, give this film a shot. No, you won’t be clutching your cat in fear (as I did on first viewing of Marshall’s debut), but if you approach The Descent 2 knowing you’re watching a typical sequel, the experience isn’t wasted. Those who are easily offended by subpar followups should avoid it, but a good deal of horror fans willing to let go of expectation will probably find themselves more entertained here than with 63% of other unambitious nontheatrical releases. The DVD is busting with features, including a commentary and thorough making-of. Give it a chance, then shoot your venom or mild enthusiasm below.


  1. I thought this was a rather enjoyable sequel (especially considering the shit we get in horror these days), but it's definitely not as good as the first one was. A lot of fun, though.

    On a side note, that poster looks pretty awesome. Never encountered that one before.

  2. The top poster? I also dig it. Not sure where it was used (somewhere that's English speaking, I assume) but I always enjoy scoping out alternative poster art. And yes, I echo your thoughts on this one. Not bad, particularly for a sequel, but obviously, nowhere near the incredible amazingness of the original.

  3. Just did my own review on this one a few days ago and I pretty much agree with you point for point. While not a bad film by any means, and somewhat decent for a sequel, I still felt like I'd seen it all before. Probably because I had.
    *And I also love the poster;)

    Super review!

  4. To the world: I highly recommend Fascination With Fear's review!

    We were definitely on the same page here. It's a fun film, and can't really be expected to live up to the original. On its own, The Descent 2 is a darn good time. Just don't do a marathon.

  5. I'm going to disagree with everybody here and say I thought it sucked. The first thing that bothered me(besides that I didn't care about ANY of the people) was how BRIGHT it was in those caves.

    The first one felt super claustrophobic, but this one was like...Where is all that light coming from? They should have no problem seeing the creatures...

    Granted, I was a little drunk when we watched this, but I thought it was pretty bad, and I believe we turned it off after an hour.

  6. What a great post. I love the line "...thank goodness this film was shot before the ubiquitous craze of 3D...". If you were drunk and turned it off, it must be terrible.


  7. Kangas: The lighting was rather ridiculous. You could've read a small-print repair manual in that place! But I do wish you'd stuck with it long enough to watch the most unlikable character get his hand severed from his body. Plus enjoy the WTF ending that may have been added solely to make people talk about the movie.

    JM: It may not be everybody's cup of chai, but that doesn't mean Tower Farm shouldn't tackle it!

  8. Haha you are right we are definitely the same person. But also AHH I can't believe I forgot to mention those hot pants!! What was I thinking?!

    Anyways I'm glad we can see eye to eye even I had "Mr. Friendly" in my mind while watching douche head cop man! Amazing.

  9. And you're the hot pants expert! I count you as the person to point out the true horror of And Soon the Darkness, i.e., riding a bicycle across the French countryside in HOT PANTS! (I also count you as the one who introduced me to that film.)

  10. OK, so I watched this on the weekend and because it doesn't look like I'll ever get around to resurrecting my movie blog I'll post my comments here. It'll just be between you and me!

    I actually really liked The Descent Part 2. I watched it immediately after watching the first one and it carried on quite nicely. It ended up being more of a slasher than the first, what with the characters getting picked off one by one, or at least trying their best to.

    I loved Juno in the first one and hated the attempts to villainize her in the first film, so I liked how she managed to make up for any acts of douchery she may have committed in the first film. I didn't expect her in the sequel so I may have squealed in giddy delight when she showed up.

    Main problem - all the accents. American, English, Australian. Sheesh.

  11. I think I turned the subtitles on when I watched it. Who knew the Appalachian mountains were such an international party?

    Juno popping up was a nice surprise, and I did really like a few of the sequences (I still rememeber when the British female spelunker gets trapped in the rocks; it was effective). Overall, I think of it along the same lines as the Cube sequels: not direct canon, but fun fan fiction turned into films.