Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Descent: Part 2 : Spelunking is overrated.

Let's be clear: I knew going in that there would be no reasonable way to make the second film as unnerving and terrifying as the first one. I mean, we've already been there, done that. And I was correct in that theory. At the risk of sounding like Randy Jackson on American Idol, The Descent Part 2 was "just alright for me, dog."

Poor Sarah. Just when she thought she'd been through the second worst trauma of her life (the first being the death of her daughter & husband in the opening minutes of the first movie), she's all but ripped from her hospital bed to go with the search party trying to find the other five girls.

Because though Sarah is alright, she's blocked out what happened and is of no use to the police and rescue/recovery team. The police are already all over her because when she was taken to the hospital she was covered in blood, and it wasn't her own. Matter of fact, it was the same type as the missing Juno Kaplan. Jumping to not-altogether-unfounded conclusions, they decide Sarah knows more than she is letting on, and despite her injuries and mental and emotional trauma, the cops force her to come with them to perhaps lend some insight on where to look for the missing (dead, because we already know that!) girls.

So already I have major issues with the film in that there is no way in hell Sarah would 1) be taken out of the hospital in her condition and 2) forced to go back down into the hell hole where the entire incident took place. But hey, it's only a movie, right?
Moving on...

Sheriff Vaines (Gavan O'Herlihy) is a no-nonsense kind of guy who actually comes off as a real asshole. He suggests very strongly that his partner, Deputy Rios (Krysten Cummings) come with them, and they join three members of the rescue team to descend back into the cave system. However, this time they are lowered into the cave by way of an old mine elevator by an old man that apparently worked at the mine. Naturally, the old man didn't go down. He's the smart one, kiddies.

On the way down, the very fragile Sarah starts to have perplexing flashbacks, and breaks out in a cold sweat. She somehow manages to keep it together when the normal person would have begun screaming and not let up until returned to the surface.

As I suspected, here is where the two movies take on so many similarities that it is difficult, if one just happened upon somebody watching it, wouldn't have a clue if it was The Descent or Part 2. Even when I was searching for pics for this post I had to really look at the photos, really unsure which part they are from. Especially with the same main star.

Shauna Macdonald (Sarah) again does a convincing job of being scared, but to see her crawling through the caves again and freaking out when she thinks she 'sees something' had me wondering about the real meaning of the word originality. Yes, the caves are immensely claustrophobic. We knew that. And it was that sense of entrapment that had dread leaking from every pore during the first film. It is also the reason I really wished they hadn't made a sequel.

Once the crawlers (that's what they call those creepy sub-humanoid creatures, right?) are re-discovered, the movie becomes nothing more than a re-hash. Oooh! What's that? I saw something! What the hell is that?

There is more bloodletting than the first film, to be sure. I'm actually not sure if I've seen that many throats ripped open in one movie before. Lots of spraying arteries. Loads of that snot-like goop the crawlers were spewing before. And one scene of pure disgust involving defecation that really was almost a laugh out loud moment it was so gross.

When the rescue team ends up splitting up (another moment of pure hilarity... I mean, come on!), they end up getting picked off one by one. Did you think that wouldn't happen?

There are no truly inventive deaths, as the crawlers can do pretty much one thing. The aforementioned throat gouging with their razor sharp teeth. Yep, it's bloody. But it's also bloody predictable.

Even the mini-twist was not a twist at all really. A character from the first movie shows up in this one, and I think we can all guess who it was, as she was the only death not shown onscreen. Mega-hint there. I won't give it away, but that character was the only thing that kept the movie going. That and Sarah's obvious second visit with her nerve and a set of balls. She kicks some serious ass in this flick.

Gosh, even the 'dangling in mid-air' trick, the 'kill someone to save yourself', and the 'oops, I've got a serious injury and really can't walk' moves were again on full display.

I loved The Descent. Loved it. Still do. And this wasn't a bad movie, not really. It just wasn't different enough. Actually, I don't know how it even could have been. You have basically one location -the caves - and all the squeezing through crevices and fighting off giant fluke-worm cannibals....that was already done. And none of the camaraderie of the girls in the first film is seen here. The characters are stock, and relationships - not much to speak of here - are flimsy, transparent, and practically meaningless.

In other words, you really won't care what the hell happens to these people, save maybe Sarah. An attempt is made to tug at our heartstrings by having the Deputy call her young daughter and give her the I'm-going-to-die I'll-always-love-you-be-a-good-girl-cause-Mommy's-going-away-for-awhile speech - but to be honest, it fell flat for me. I really didn't care that that little girl's mommy was dumb enough to spelunk uncharted caves.

The ending, while trying to achieve the same bleak and dismal outcome as the first film, only succeeds in making you yell at the television or perhaps just shake your head and exclaim "seriously?!" like I did.

So I guess I'm rather on the fence here. While it sounds like I hated the movie, I really didn't. Any time you've got grotesque inhuman monsters in a place like creepy underground caves, well...I'm there. I love to get my freak on, and while certainly a pale comparison to its predecessor, The Descent, Part 2 serves up a second course of blood, guts, and extreme claustrophobia.

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


Emily said...

Excellent review. I just watched it Friday and agree with pretty much all of your points, although I may have enjoyed it a little more simply because I tend to give films that I expected to suck that didn't actually suck a lot more credit simply for not sucking.

C.L. Hadden said...

Emily: You raise a good point - and I concur, it definitely didn't suck :)

Dawn said...

i totally agree. It was a weaker version of the first film. The character developement, or lack thereof, is what really killed the film for me. i really didn't give a crap about anyone but Sarah. The ending definately had me pissed and yelling at my TV too. There was most certainly no reason for a sequel.

La Morte Vivante said...

Yeah, I shared your misgivings on this one (see my review at http://www.nihilistamag.com/Films.html) - I can of course suspend my disbelief but there are limits. Actually, where and when we can suspend our disbelief is an interesting one. I watched this film alongside a group of cavers and they were mainly turned off that 'none of the cavers seem to be drunk'. I wouldn't have thought drunkedness was an optimum state for caving, but actually, I can see how that might work...

Atroxion said...

Taking into consideration that this is actually a horror sequel, it was quite good. The first one was obviously more effective and powerful, but you can't deny that this is a pretty well-done sequel. The ending was a bit weak, though.

Great review.

Heather Santrous said...

I'm not trying to knock you with this comment, or anything like that. I'm just curious about your "it offers nothing new" comment in your review. I may not have quoted correctly, if I didn't then I am sorry.

Seeing as they go back to the same cave system as the first movie, how could they have added something new? They couldn't really make new creatures, mainly because people would complain why we didn't see them the first time around.

C.L. Hadden said...

Dawn: I agree they should have just left it alone, it didn't need a sequel.

La Morte: Perhaps if we were drunk when watching the film...

Atroxion: I do agree it was a well-made sequel. I didn't hate it, in fact I liked it - just thought it was too repetitive.

Heather: Well I think that's my point exactly, the fact that they couldn't 'offer anything new', so why even do it? I just didn't think a sequel was necessary - we saw it all in the first film. I wouldn't want new creatures or anything, that would have been beyond implausible.
I guess my thought is that the first film was excellent and the story was told. No reason to continue.

But seeing as how everything these days gets a sequel or a remake, I shouldn't have expected anything less.