The Descent Part 2 (2009)
By: Julian on September 14, 2010  | 
Icon | Region 4, PAL | 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 5.1 | 93 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Jon Harris
Starring: Shauna Macdonald, Gavan O'Herlihy, Krysten Cummings, Joshua Dallas, Anna Skellern
Screenplay: James McCarthy, James Watkins, J Blakeson
Country: UK
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The Descent: Part II (the opening titles give it the Roman numerals, posters and promotional material call it Part 2) is not so much a sequel as a second half to the brilliant 2005 horror flick: it begins at the scene the US cut left off. This is, of course, completely fallacious, because the US cut was doctored: the producers severed the final scene, wherein Sarah is shown as having never escaped the cave, in order to appease test audiences disgruntled by the bleak outcome. An early, disenchanting sign that the screenwriting team of first timers J Blakeson and James McCarthy and Eden Lake alum James Watkins is on the nod.

So, with Sarah (Shauna Macdonald, reprising her original role) having 'escaped' the cave, she hails down a motorist and is questioned by the authorities, but her ordeal has rendered her amnesic. Two days on and she is still unable to articulate what has happened to the rest of her party. With her condition showing no sign of abating, Shauna is taken back into the cave (!!!) in an attempt to locate any possible survivors. Accompanying Sarah is Sherriff Vaines (Gavan O'Herlihy), his Deputy (Krysten Cummings) and three experienced cavers Dan, Greg and Cath (Anna Skellern, whom Australians might recognise from CNNNN).

This film is cut from the same thematic cloth as the original, but despite producer Marshall's attempts to amplify the claustrophobia that made The Descent's first act so successful, Part II isn't quite as effective. In scenes it comes close – when Cath is trapped between two rocks, director Jon Harris, an editor by trade, hits his strides. Marshall's DP Sam McCurdy is also on typical form, following our doomed heroes into that wretched Appalachian cave. But despite the best efforts of director and DP, and in spite of the film being technically impressive and doling out some effective jump scares, the insidious dread that pervaded every frame of the original is largely absent here. Of course, the original had the advantage of the element of the unknown, particularly with regard to the monsters, but Part II lacks all subtlety, sprinting towards the climax faster than it needed to.

The humanoid monsters that were introduced in The Descent's second act predictably play a more prevalent role in Part II. Harris imports a couple of The Descent's SFX stars (including Paul Hyett, who also worked on Marshall's Centurion and Doomsday), but it's a mostly new crew of names. They do a reasonable job in most respects, but some very fluorescent blood oozing from the occasional throat-ripping is a bit off-putting. In the original, Marshall and McCurdy used the darkness to maximum effect: here, having the monsters bathed in white (torch) light puts a wet blanket on any suspense they're likely to educe.

The performers are fine, but they too lack the chemistry (and the associated rifts) that the original troupe had – even Shauna Macdonald seems a bit strained. The best of the bunch, though, is homegrown talent Skellern in her first feature role – Cath is convincing and occasionally heartbreaking as the jaded caver thrown into a nightmare situation (and that's before the monsters appear!).

Jon Harris is also an impressive first-timer, but although this is his directorial debut he has been, and continues to be, involved in some significant genre movies as an editor – Layer Cake, The Descent, Eden Lake and Kick-Ass to name a few. He really does do a good job for his first film – I mentioned a scene in which Harris absolutely shines, and elsewhere he produces slick, aesthetically pleasing, if flawed, modern horror product. He is on editorial duties here too, and Harris happily averts the choppy, MTV-style that has been broadly overdone in these sorts of pictures. There's no doubt, though, that this film is outclassed by an original that is one of the genre highlights of the noughties.
A clean, crisp picture presented in 2.35:1, with 16:9 enhancement.
Two English tracks, presented in DTS 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1. They're as clear as they should be.
Extra Features
Sadly, bare bones. The UK R2 release provides as good a set of special features as one could hope for: a commentary track with Harris, Macdonald, Cummings and Skellern; a making-of featurette; deleted scenes (with optional commentary by the director); storyboard and production design galleries and a theatrical trailer.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
The above review might not have seemed altogether complimentary, but it must be stressed that The Descent: Part II is a perfectly adequate sequel. Of course, it's based on a lie (and I don't think I'm being melodramatic by saying that), the premise is manifestly unbelievable from the outset (who would take a victim suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder back to the source of her woes mere days after the event?) and Harris hopes to replicate the success of Marshall's original by identically replicating its claustrophobia/monster formula. It doesn't hold a candle to the original and has some trouble standing on its own feet, but that doesn't detract from Part II's technical competence and the immense entertainment value it so clearly possesses.

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