bloodied and speechless with trauma, Sarah Carter emerges
alone from the appalachian cave system where the events of
the descent took place. Local sheriff Redmond Vaines forces
her back underground to help the rescue team which is desperately
searching for her five missing girlfriends. As the team move
deeper into the caves, Sarah's flashes of fractured memory
intensify and she begins to realise the full horror of the
would-be rescue mission. Only Sarah knows the terror which
lurks in the shadows of the caves. But they are about to encounter
a new tribe of crawlers, inbred, deformed and even more viciously
feral than those Sarah faced before.
Back in 2005, a low-budget thriller about five girls who encounter a strange breed of predators while on a caving expedition made waves amongst horror fans and critics alike. Writer-director Neil Marshall’s “The Descent” was lavished with praise for being intense and creepy and a class act in suspense. Marshall has since gone on to bigger-budget stuff- 2008’s “Doomsday” and the upcoming “Centurion”- though he remains credited as one of the executive producers of this sequel here.
Despite being at the reins of a new director, “The Descent: Part II” feels very much like its predecessor. Picking up right after the events of the first film, it wastes no time in thrusting the lone survivor Sarah (Shauna McDonald) back into the underground labyrinth once more, this time leading a group of rescuers and local policemen in search of her missing companions. Needless to say, Sarah and company will once again become prey for the “crawlers” and who emerges alive is again anyone’s guess.
Like Marshall’s original, first-time director Jon Harris effectively exploits the claustrophobic confines of which the characters are trapped in for maximum panic effect. Harris makes good use of the darkness of the cave setting, illuminated only barely by flashlights and headlights, to instil a foreboding sense of danger and fear throughout the movie. Though he does resort to jump-scares one too often, Harris makes up for it in several well-crafted moments of tension that will have you on the edge of your seat.
Harris also ups the gore factor from the previous movie, and squeamish audiences may want to take note that this is not a film for the faint-hearted (even though the version released on home video has been edited to an M18 rating). There is also considerably more action involving the ‘crawlers’ here, as Harris compensates vigorously for the novelty that the first film had going for it.
Besides lacking somewhat the freshness of the original, this sequel also suffers from poor characterisation. The script by three writers no less- J. Blakeson, James McCarthy and James Watkins- can’t measure up to the wit of Marshall’s original that pitted five female friends against each other in a battle for survival, and while this sequel flirts with the same themes, its characters just aren’t interesting enough for its audience to care as much about their eventual dilemmas.
It isn’t that “The Descent: Part II” is dreadful. On the contrary, it is a solid B-grade horror movie that boasts the same kind of suspense and shocks as its predecessor. But Marshall’s film had the benefit of novelty, an advantage that this sequel lacks, as well as better characterisation. Still, Harris’ film is a worthy follow-up to the original, and even if its offers more of the same, it is nonetheless riveting entertainment sure to set your pulse racing.
SPECIAL FEATURES :
Audio is presented only in Dolby Digital 2.0, though a 5.1 soundtrack would have made the experience more terrifying. Visuals are clear and contrast is well-balanced during the dimly lit sequences- though it could do with some sharpening.
by Gabriel Chong
Posted on 12 December 2010