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Featured DVD Review: The Descent: Part 2

April 26th, 2010

The Descent: Part 2 - Buy from Amazon

The Descent was released in its native U.K. back in 2005 and earned amazing reviews. It became a solid hit, both in its native market and when it was imported here. The Descent: Part 2 struggled to find the same level of success in most foreign markets, while it is being dumped direct-to-DVD here. Is this decline in box office fortunes the result of a decline in quality, or is there something else in effect here?

The film starts moments after the end of the first film. That's the original end of the first film. First a brief recap of that movie...

Five friends go spelunking in an unmapped cave system when there's a collapse. Since no one knows where they were exploring, they won't be rescued. They have to get out. However, they may or may not be alone in the caves. There might be creatures stalking them. Or they might be imagining things. What is for sure is that they soon turn on each other.

This film starts with Sarah finally making it out of the cave before being found by Ed, who was just driving by. She's taken to a hospital where she is questioned by Sheriff Vaines and his deputy, Elen Rios. But Sarah has no memory of what has happened over the past few days. (In fact, when she wakes up, she still thinks her daughter is alive, when she was killed a year before the events of the first film.) Sheriff Vaines is convinced that she knows more than she is saying and decides to take her to the cave system, hoping to jog her memory and perhaps find some survivors. Coming along are a few experts climbers, Dan, Greg, and Cath. At first nothing helps Sarah remember, but when she does have a flashback, she reacts in a violent panic and runs off. In the confusion than ensues, there's a gun shot, a cave in, and the party is separated. This will end poorly.

The original was a brilliant horror film that built its scares from the claustrophobic atmosphere and the physiological terror of friends turning on each other. This time around it is a much more conventional creature feature. Part of this is necessitated by the fact that this is a sequel. Much of the first film deals with whether or not the creatures exist. Here we know they do, because we saw them the first time around. You can only try and say to your audience, "Maybe Sarah imagined it all?" for so long before they would grow restless.

On the other hand, the film maintains its claustrophobic feeling, it is scary, and the ending is effective. Overall it is a good example of the genre, but it doesn't do a whole lot to reinvent it like the original.

Extras on the DVD start with a 26-minute long "making of" featurette that is your typical mix of talking heads, clips from the movie, and behind-the-scenes footage. They discuss the first film, why they decided to make a sequel, how they choose Jon Harris as director, what is was like to work with a first-time director, bringing the cast and crew back together again, etc. There are also 11 minutes of deleted scenes, but you have to watch them as one large chunk. There's not even chapter breaks between scenes.

Oh, and there's an audio commentary track, but it's found under the Setup menu and not the special features. I hate that. It includes the director, Jon Harris, and three of the actresses. (There's Shauna MacDonald, a.k.a., Sarah; Krysten Cummings, a.k.a., Deputy Rios; and Anna Skellern, a.k.a. Cath.) It's a good track that is definitely worth listening too.

The Verdict

If you really liked The Descent, and most people who saw it did, then The Descent: Part 2 is worth checking out. However, you must go in understanding that it doesn't have quite the same atmosphere. It's effective and much better than similar films in its genre, but it is not what the original was. With a DVD that is better than expected for a direct-to-DVD release, many who do check it out will want to buy it over just renting.

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Filed under: Video Review, The Descent: Part 2