Women go down into a cave and get eaten by albino monsters. That's a delicious recipe, isn't it? Neil Marshall really put the screws to us in the The Descent when it was released in 2005. Those gibbering, feral things that the amateur spelunkers fall prey to are the stuff of nightmares, packed into a claustrophobic box. Lost, trapped, hunted, and plagued with interpersonal drama, there were so many salvos fired at us that made this flick a real teeth-grinder. Much like Aja's Haute Tension, however, the receiver dropped the ball in the end zone. I've had endless debates about the UK vs the US endings, but both of them made me want drop the movie into a chasm and hope it never finds its way out. Let the Morlocks have the whole damned thing. I was just that frustrated with it. 2009 saw the release of the Descent: Part 2 over in the UK. Helmed by Jon Harris in his virgin voyage in the director's chair, the story picks up right where the first left off.

Distraught, confused, and half-wild with fear, Sarah Carter emerges alone from the Appalachian cave system where she encountered unspeakable terrors. Unable to plausibly explain to the authorities what happened - or why she's covered in her friends' blood - Sarah is forced back to the subterranean depths to help locate her five missing companions. As the rescue party drives deeper into uncharted caverns, nightmarish visions of the recent past begin to haunt Sarah and she starts to realize the full horror and futility of the mission. Subjected to the suspicion and mistrust of the group and confronted once more by the inbred, feral and savagely ruthless Crawlers, Sarah must draw on all her inner reserves of strength and courage in a desperate final struggle for deliverance and redemption.

**Mild spoilers ahead**

I'm going to reference the original film quite a bit. It's inevitable, especially since this one does so little to distinguish itself as a new film. Like some 3rd generation VHS dub, this version has lost a little bit of its fidelity.

Part 2 gets off to something of a lazy start. There are rescue teams searching futilely for the missing women from the first film. In a nonsense move akin to sending Ripley along with the Marines, the authorities drag Sarah back down into the Appalachian hell-pit. Once they get into the mines that lead to the Crawlers' cave system, the atmosphere gets thick with fear. While it doesn't quite utilize the darkness as well as the original, there is a foreboding, gaping silence in the beginning of their excursion. It's quiet when it needs to be. The film really plays up the hostility of the caverns before they re-introduce the crawlers. As characters squirmed through the cracks in the stone, I was asphyxiated with claustrophobia. The busted jigsaw of Sarah's memory slowly reassembles itself, ratcheting up the tension and forcing characters to make some grisly decisions. Harris ups the ante with more than one scene of blood-drenched nastiness. There are arterial sprays here akin to a morbid Gallagher concert, with stomach turning moments that catch you off guard. One in particular is absurdly unnecessary, but to its credit, it builds to an ending packed with wild savagery.

There's a bit of strife between members of the rescue team, again mimicking the interpersonal drama from the first film, but it isn't quite as compelling this time around. The character work is rather middle-of-the-road, particularly with Sarah. The change she undergoes, from shell-shocked victim to hardened survivor, is a bit of a stretch, especially since she shambles through most of the film like a twitchy zombie. Along with some painful dialog and truly implausible and unexplained turns of events, I was left wondering if they were going to try anything new at all here. It even reuses a good deal of footage from the first, going so far as to completely mimic one of the big scares from 2005.

This is almost a cover song of the original. It doesn't further the story at all, choosing only to parrot so many of the first film's notes. While it's certainly an entertaining watch, I didn't quite get the point. If you enjoyed the first one enough to just want more of the same, then have at it.

categories Reviews, Horror