Director – Jon Harris
Cast – Shauna Macdonald, Jessika Williams, Douglas Hodge, Joshua Dallas, Anna Skellern, Gavan O’Herlihy, Krysten Cummings, Michael J. Reynolds, Natalie Jackson Mendoza
Release Year – 2009
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Writer/director Neil Marshall’s 2005 film, The Descent, is one of my favorite horror films EVER. One of the very best films from this past decade, it’s horrific ending is one that left many fans wanting a sequel. I personally did not care much for a sequel, but would have been open to the idea if Neil Marshall returned to the franchise he created. Unfortunately, Jon Harris, an editor for The Descent as well as Layer Cake and Eden Lake was chosen to helm this sequel along with three mediocre writers. Disastrous results ensued.
The Descent 2 returns Shauna Macdonald as Sarah, the lead from The Descent. Shortly after the events of The Descent Sarah is found confused, distraught, and fear-ridden. She is brought to the local hospital, and authorities are notified that one of the “girls who disappeared” has been found. Things worsen for Sarah when authorities get a look at her. Her clothes are completely covered in blood, and given the severity of her wounds, it is assumed the blood does not belong to her. The town’s sheriff, Sheriff Vaines must account for what happened to the other girls, and with Sarah’s memory on the fritz, he devises a plan. Sheriff Vains has decided to bring Sarah with him and the rescue team down into the caverns in order to find out where her friends are, and what the heck happened. This proves to be a very bad decision for the rescue party. As they get deeper and deeper into the caverns, familiar images bring Sarah’s memory back to form. By the time she realizes where she is, the horror begins.
I had very high hopes for this film. Sure I did not expect it to wow me as great as it’s predecessor did, but given it’s plotline and awesome setting I figured it had to be at least “good”. Boy was I wrong. I found it very hard to believe that director Jon Harris actually had ANYTHING to do with The Descent due to how inferior this film’s horror and overall quality was in comparison to The Descent. It seems a growing trend in the horror realm to promote a previous successful film’s editor to director when the original film’s director is not available, and so far this seems hit or miss. Kevin Gruet, director of the positive Saw VI was an editor for the previous “Saw” films. That that case it worked, in this case, it did not.
The film takes off relatively quick at first, but from then on it’s a shoot-out between bad direction and bad writing. John Harris overly used his editing skills to give the usual crappy DTV editing we get from very low-budget films, his biggest mistake. If he used this tactic to maybe set up a couple of jump scares then I could have let it slide, BUT he used this tactic for EVERY scare in the film. Yes, I am serious. After about this third cliché jump scare I began to become annoyed with this film, and the cliché jump scares only continued to soil my experience. Each of the character performances were horrible, partly thanks to some very crappy dialogue, and partly thanks to the actors either suffering at the hand’s of Harris’s direction or their own acting abilities. I absolutely hated the use of some of the characters, especially Juno(Natalie Jackson Mendoza). It was a nice touch to bring her back into the film, but she was used cliché AS EVER, and I hated that. Another byproduct of horrible writing complimented with horrible direction/execution.
Thankfully, there are a few positive notes regarding Harris’s direction. For one, he did not show away from the gore. The Descent is one of the best gory films out there, so it was only natural for this sequel to follow in the same vein. Unfortunately, much of the film’s gore scenes came along with Harris’s horrible editing, so this was a bittersweet element for me. I also enjoyed that we once again got some nice atmosphere thanks to some very nice cavern sets. The lighting was great, which allowed for a few chilly scenes regarding the creatures moving around in the dark. We don’t get much of a claustrophobic feel like we did with Neil Marshall’s direction in The Descent, but this film’s director is named John Harris, not Neil Marshall.
Another fine element that involved both direction and writing was the fact that this film took it’s time with it’s development. I enjoyed the patient development we got in The Descent because it led to a very nicely done second half, and this film aimed to do just that. The pacing was actually quite well done, but I still found troubles staying interested not due to the pacing itself, but to the horrible writing and direction that went along with it. If it wasn’t for this film’s plot location and overall plot, this would have been one of the worst sequels EVER.
The look of the creatures was positive overall, but I still preferred the original’s creatures to the ones in this film. The differences were slight, but enough to not nearly be as creepy anymore. We did not get anymore information regarding the source of where the creatures came from, and although it would have been a little nice to appease my mind of such curiosity, I still find some joy in this mystery.
Overall, this is a mediocre sequel that could have been a lot worse had it not given us a few elements that save itself. If you are a fan of the first film you may be heavily disappointed as I was, but who knows, give it a shot.