Depending on which version of The Descent you saw, The Descent: Part 2 will either make sense or will come straight out of left field. If you’re in America and caught the first flick in theaters or on the R-rated DVD, you’ll be fine. This film follows that ending. The ending that the filmmakers intended, seen in other parts of the world and on the unrated DVD, was not followed up on, and would have made this story impossible.
The Descent: Part 2 picks up soon after the ending of the first film, following a traumatized Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) wandering around the forest, eventually finding a road and a man (Michael J. Reynolds) who takes her to the hospital. Those who watched the first film know exactly what happened to Sarah, and will understand why her mind has decided to repress the experience. The only problem is that she entered a cave with her friends, and since they didn’t come out, and because she’s covered in their blood, the authorities think that she might have killed them.
Before you know it, we’re going back into the caves. Coming along for the ride this time are a couple of police officers (Gavan O’Herlihy and Krysten Cummings), and three rescue workers who happen to be pretty good at exploring caves (Douglas Hodge, Joshua Dallas and Anna Skellern). And, of course, Sarah is dragged along as well, as the police hope that she’ll be able to help them navigate the cave despite having no recollection of it.
In The Descent, Sarah and a group of friends went exploring a previously uncharted cave. They figured that would be a fun way to spend the weekend, I guess. Inside, they encountered mutated creatures who are unable to see, but have the hearing of a bat. They also had to crawl around in claustrophobic passages, in large part thanks to the fact that it was a horror film. Most of those girls died, with Sarah seemingly being the only one to escape.
Take a guess what happens this time. Surprising absolutely nobody, these creatures didn’t all just disappear once one member of their pray escaped. They relish the opportunity to hunt for fresh meat, and now that there are five new bodies, as well as one that had previously gotten away, they’re just licking their lips. Actually, I’m not sure if they have lips. They’re really deformed. Anyway, most of the film takes place inside this cave, with the characters having to run from or kill these creatures in order to escape.
Of course, there’s also the goal of finding all of these missing women, but we know that they’re all dead and that this mission was fruitless from the beginning. Will Sarah figure this out? Will something inside her snap and remember that her friends are, in fact, dead? Who will escape from the cave? And did all of Sarah’s friends really die? These are questions you’ll have to find out for yourself, as they’re called “spoilers” and I’m not going to reveal them for you.
Truth be told, The Descent: Part 2 is just about as scary as the first one. Its scares are mostly of the jump variety, and there’s much less claustrophobia this time around, but in terms of being scary, it succeeds more or less as well as the first one did. It shows the creatures too often and too early just like its predecessor, which is unfortunate, especially once we discover that they can’t see (which, if we watched the previous film, we’d know already, but the characters learn this far too early on).
What lost me is the story, and the fact that this film exists at all. The ending used in everywhere else in the world gave the first Descent much more depth, wrapped things up very nicely, and was on the whole a large improvement over its R-rated counterpart. For the sequel to exist, the worse ending has been made canon. That means that the first film loses some of its depth. Part 2 also feels very contrived, and very much like a retread. It also wraps up loose strings that were better left ambiguous, and has a character reveal that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever (a tag which also applies to the ending).
What The Descent did well was have the characters matter. Each character was unique, and by the end, I could remember all of their names. That’s not the case this time around. All three spelunkers act the same, the two police officers are indistinguishable, and I only remembered Sarah because of the last film. The actors don’t stand out, and don’t bring much to their characters either. It’s differences like this that show me that The Descent: Part 2 is worse than its predecessor — especially considering it’s a very similar movie in most aspects.
Is The Descent: Part 2 scary? Only if you found the jump scares and general atmosphere of the first film scary. But apart from that (which I’ll admit is by far the most important part), the rest is kind of a mess. The story is convoluted and is a disservice to the original, the characters all fade into the background, with one being indistinguishable from the others, and the ending is absolutely awful. But, if you watched the R-rated cut of The Descent and really want to see Sarah’s story continue, it’ll be worth your time to watch.