"The Descent Part 2" DVD, Blu-ray Review

5/03/2010 Posted by Admin

DVD, Blu-ray Review

"The Descent Part 2"

Directed by Jon Harris, Written by James Watkins, J. Blakeson and James McCarthy, 92 Minutes, Rated R

By our guest blogger, Rob Stammitti

"The Descent" has become a reasonably well-regarded film since its release in 2005. Combining basic survival with monster horror, it proved to be successful enough to warrant a sequel--so here we have "The Descent Part 2," a return into the horrific caves that started it all.

The film picks up pretty much right where the first one left off. Sarah, the only survivor of five in an ill-fated expedition into an uncharted cave system crawling with monstrous nocturnal humanoids, washes up on a beach and runs to safety, where she learns a search party has gathered trying to find her group. Her memory of the incident has been completely wiped out and she's asked to accompany a crew into the caves to help find her friends. It's not long into the search, though, when her memories start coming back and she realizes what horror they've all walked into.

The first film didn't quite work for me--despite nearly universal acclaim, it just played out like a typical (albeit reasonably well-directed) slasher film. But it had its moments, most of them being a lot of the more realistic and claustrophobic sequences exploring the cave before the monsters showed up.

"Part 2" is pretty much more of the same. This time we get a coed cast, which tones down the female strength angle of the original, but it works. I found myself connecting to them more than the previous cast.

Unlike the slow burn of the first film, which spent a good hour or so before revealing itself as full-on monster madness, this one cuts right to the chase--we meet the characters, they head into the caves, and the crawlers start appearing. Actually, I suppose you could think of this as the "Aliens" or "28 Weeks Later" of "The Descent." Far more action-packed, lots of characters, far more straightforward, but obviously attempting desperately to replicate the look and feel of the first film. I suppose the problem here is that the first film isn't that good, so replicating it and dumbing it down even more doesn't lead to many improvements.

Something particularly frustrating about the film (and the first one, I suppose) is its attempt to be a psychologically relevant work when its attempts at looking at grief are almost insultingly simplistic. Showing a woman getting over the death of her children doesn't make getting trapped in a cave or attacked by monsters any more frightening. It just makes it irritating.

This is especially aggravating when the film turns out to be very little more than a typical slasher film. All the cliches are there. The characters getting taken out one by one, the jump scares, the irrational decisions of the characters, the gross-out violence (which would be far more visceral if it didn't come every 10 minutes), and even the cliffhanger ending are all reminiscent of your everyday slasher movie. Setting it in a cave doesn't make it any less so.

Enjoying either of these films definitely comes down to whether you're drawn to this brand of horror. Visceral, claustrophobic, but generally by-the-book, there are certainly things to be enjoyed, and people looking for some quick shocks and blood spurts will get more here than in the original. But I wouldn't say either is worth heavy recommendation.

Grade: D+

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