The Descent: Part 2

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Bruised and bloodied, Sarah (Macdonald) is found wandering in the woods with no memory of a calamitous caving trip. Keen to find survivors, the local sheriff (O’Herlihy) insists she lead a rescue party back into the caverns...


Inserting a superfluous “Part” into the title of your sequel won’t convince people it’s the second Godfather. Still, before anyone gets worked up about the mercenary nature of descending again, it’s worth remembering Francis Ford Coppola only returned for the cheque — and then made one of the Greatest Films Of All Time.

The Descent: Part 2 is not, alas, one of the Greatest Films Of All Time. Instead, it ranks alongside unneccesary sequels, from Beverly Hills Cop II to The Matrix Reloaded. You understand why it exists, but every strong aspect of it has been executed better before.

Original writer/director Neil Marshall knew not to go underground again — the story was self-contained: sealed, closed, buried. In fact, the UK cut of The Descent precluded a follow-up; this only works with the US version. Still, it’s hard to blame Jon Harris for taking the opportunity to shift from editing suite on the first Descent to director’s chair on the second — or producer Christian Colson for trying to echo 28 Days/Weeks Laters’ success as a Brit ick-flick franchise. It’s just hard to get excited. Harris does a decent job with the set-pieces and injects enough energy into the action to suggest he deserves another shot. But at a fresh subject.

Here, the script (credited to three scribes, including James Watkins, director of the excellent Eden Lake) struggles to explain the inanity of its conceit (hey, let’s take the traumatised disaster victim underground to act as a guide, even though she’s A BLOODY AMNESIAC). You might write this off as the nature of the beast (y’know, it is a sequel), but it doesn’t make it any less annoying.

Other notable script elements include a predictable sacrifice and a retroactive tweak that is both daring and irritating — as are the majority of the new characters. The performances are largely routine, with the only stand-out being O’Herlihy, because he’s so bad. It doesn’t help that the sheriff is such a colossal arsehole, who exists to drive the story on with his spectacular stupidity. Where DP2 works best is in the inevitable deaths, which veer towards Evil Dead-style splatstick over the original’s Alien-like ferocity, and provoke a few chuckles and winces. The ending suffocates any laughter, though, with its idiocy matched only by its cynicism. Expect The Descent: Part 3 to discover just how low you can go...

An uninspired retread of a horror classic, this tries hard to justify its existence... and fails.