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Ben Austwick [Film Festival 09.09.09] movie review horror

Year: 2009
Directors: Jon Harris
Writers: J Blakeson & James McCarthy & James Watkins
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Ben Austwick
Rating: 8.5 out of 10

How do you follow a film as simply effective as The Descent? By not changing much at all, according to Jon Harris, the director assigned the tough, expectation-laden job of making The Descent part 2. But in sticking to the winning formula and upping the horror to tongue-in-cheek levels, he's done about as good a job as possible.

A messy but thankfully brief set-up introduces us to a rescue party ready to enter the caves where the girls from the first movie went missing. Miles away Sarah, the only survivor of the original expedition, emerges from the cave system in a state of amnesia, but is well enough to lead a small expedition party back into the cave complex. The believability of this is stretched further by a couple of cave rescuers who would rather what they're doing is kept secret, don't have any communication with people above ground, and take a couple of inexperienced police officers down with them rather than fellow cavers. The cavalier attitude these gaping holes in credulity are dismissed with so we can get on with the good stuff is actually quite impressive - after all, who really cares?

Once in the caves the search for survivors commences and we enter the territory of the original film. Disappointment inevitably sets in as at first familiar scenes are replayed. In retreading this ground The Descent part 2 runs the risk of alienating its audience early on, but there are hints of what is to come. The cave-dwelling monsters are that little bit hokier, the violence a touch more gory, the audience's disgust is gleefully toyed with. These elements are ratcheted up as the film progresses into awesomely gory deaths that spatter all over the place, icky floods of monster snot and monster poo, and some brilliantly drawn out half-comical, half hide-your-eyes painful set-pieces, until the theater audience is jumping, laughing and groaning along to the action in between sighs of audible relief. It's that kind of fun movie, and bursting with the kind of charm you only get if the director, cast and crew had as much fun making it as you have watching it.

There are a few big surprises in the film, one a superb twist that echoes back to the original movie and makes the rather formulaic storyline almost forgivable; and that Harris makes a a scene of caving claustrophobia even more claustrophobic than the tunnel collapse in the original deserves a pat on the back in itself. The ending is disappointing, removing as it does one of the more exciting options for a sequel thrown up in this film; and I couldn't help wanting more of a back-story to the creatures in the cave, traditionally a sequel's job - though if you're prepared to read enough into the actions of an incidental character there are hints at an explanation.

But that sort of stuff isn't really what The Descent part 2 is about anyway. It's a fun horror film that sets out to entertain and succeeds brilliantly. It is rightly in awe of its predecessor and makes no attempt to upstage it, while taking the elements that made it work and running gleefully with them in a new, fun direction. Breezy and unpretentious, it's the sort of film that might get overlooked but actually takes a lot of skill, intelligence and wit to make.

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agentorange (12 years ago) Reply

All I could have hoped for was a respectful sequel so I'm happy. Can't wait to check this out.


Ben Austwick (12 years ago) Reply

Yeah, I love the original, there was a lot riding on this.

The only other way I could think of following it was doing an "Aliens" and sending the army in. Part 3 perhaps?


Richard Neal (12 years ago) Reply

I have to say that, after watching The Descent, the last thing on my mind was "I'd like to watch another 90 minutes of this"; but your review has intrigued me enough that I might check it out after all. :O)

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