Movies like The Descent Part 2 are precisely the reason why sequels, prequels or anything remotely close to the continuation of a fairly successful film should be avoided at all costs. We all agree that most sequels dim in comparison to the original. Far worse are those filmmakers who convince financiers to give them the money to make yet another ‘prequel’ or a film that takes place before the original story as prequels are even less likely to succeed – though admittedly, the inventive technique of restarting the Star Trek franchise with a prequel is by far not the norm.
In the case of this film, aptly called Part 2, we realize soon enough that this 2009 British horror film sequel to the 2005 horror film The Descent had a brief release in the UK before being promptly directed straight to DVD a shy four months later in the US. That should be your first warning. Second warning should come when any critic worth his or her salt avoids even the slightest of commentary. When a horror site or fanzine gives three thumbs up on a horror film that most certainly spells disaster. Think Titanic with claws, a drooling maul and blind white eyes. Think the Godfather and then imagine Godfather part III. Same films, really, just not so well done after the fact. Every film reaches a point when it should be left alone to gather shelf dust or wrapper fatigue or fade to the 2 dollar bin at Bags 4 Less; free if you buy the strand of fake pearls that aren’t even the right color but the price is right.
The Descent Part 2 sounds appealing to anyone who saw the first one and actually liked all the character building and chit-chat ( I did). If you hated that and just wanted monster on monster action well then maybe part 2 is for you. What might be the most appealing is knowing that the original producer and director of the first film came on board as the executive producer of the remake. But it is apparent from the earliest scenes of this film that the entire attention to character, back story and preparation was tossed out with the bath water, as it were, and instead the action begins promptly when the sole survivor from the first all woman expedition makes it above ground only to be convinced to return to the very place where her friends were killed. Once we breeze over her reluctance and immediate acceptance because she has amnesia or something, the remaining characters line up like your typical B-movie archetypes, the rough and tough sheriff or marshal with bigger guns than brains, the easily spooked and uncertain female “girlfriend” who asks a lot of questions but makes stupid mistakes anyway, and a handful of other characters we know serve little more than bait for the monsters that live deep below. If they live down there and there isn’t a lot of treasure to be found or natural gas or oil or anything, why go? Just to find out who or what killed a bunch of female spelunkers? Case closed if I was the sheriff, I mean marshal, or whatever. The premise is tired at this point and any curious character building and suspenseful tone established in the first film is all but trace elements in this go around. I mean when was the last time you wanted to watch another good guy get out of jail and try and go straight but end up having to break the law in order to save a delinquent brother or father? What about the romantic comedy of complete opposites who somehow through the power of truth and honesty find one another amid the hustle and hedonism of a bustling metropolis? You don’t need those tired story lines any more than you need this one but hey, it’s your four dollars or whatever.
First time director Jon Harris, a very well established editor in his own right, appears afraid to deviate too far from the outline of the original story, choosing instead to mirror the claustrophobia and fear factor of things that go bump in the night to little or no new effect. We get it, these creatures are mean mofos. Maybe editors don’t make good directors after all. The problem with films like this is rather than building on what has already been done, such as the evolution of Alien to Aliens, Matrix to Matrix Reloaded, Terminator to Terminator 2 and so, the filmmakers add gore and goo in place of story and character, ratchet up the PG13 violence to an R factor and in the end everything ends up varying shades of unsatisfying gray that neither informs as reward our effort for sitting through another forgettable horror story. In place of zombies we’re given blind goblins that drool too much and spend far too long devouring their victims which ultimately makes them good targets for any myriad of destruction – from boulders to trip wires, the baddies go down in glorious techno-color glory. Tarantino and Rodriguez would be proud only they’re not the ones paying for the cost of admission.
The exact reason the first movie succeeded is the exact reason why the sequel fails – no character development means a bunch of people bumping into one another until the evil freaks from down below kill them in not so original ways. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that sometimes it’s important to get your audience to root for your main characters regardless of the genre, story or premise. In the film Backwoods with Gary Oldman, we spend quite a lot of time getting to know the couples as they make their way across country and road to some remote cabin where they are either going for holiday or just a chance to gather their wits, think through some problems, and ultimately return to their normal world with problems in check, perhaps no less resolved but this endears us to them. We care about them because they care about one another and we’re given enough time to make a connection. By the time the strangeness begins to happen we really are concerned and therefore invested. What is going to happen when they find the girl locked up in the shed? Will they have a run in with the locals and how will they handle them if the nearest law is miles away? In the case of The Descent Part 2 the only question that lingers is why Sarah Carter would agree to return to the pit under any circumstances and then why the people who go in with her are so blooming ridiculous?
There is eve less reason to watch The Descent Part 2 than just about any nameless, low-budget zombie flick in recent memory. At least with a movie of that nature you know what to expect and can alter your expectations accordingly. You might even catch a better horror film for free on the internet or on cable but either way The Descent Part 2 is going to leave you gasping for air and wishing you had that rental fee back so you could spend it more wisely like on a lottery ticket or two.
The Descent Part 2 trailer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jjh1uL-RzMU