Being in the dark without knowing what lurks there is one of the oldest tricks in the horror genre book, and Descent knows its rules best, while The Descent: Part 2 breaks them in an even gorier way.
(UK 2005, director: Neil Marshall)
A group of women find themselves in an unexplored cave and are soon chased by predators in the dark.
Horror movies don’t have to tell a complicated story or work with subtle tension or sudden jumpscares. It’s enough to make the audience cringe at broken bones, terribly deformed faces, and very uncomfortable situations in the darkness. The Descent provides the thrills and more than gory kills, as it’s one bloody tour de force with only some minor problems.
As is to be expected, there is a bit of shallow prep talk when introducing characters who simply become victimized meat for the creatures inhabiting the caves. While the women can be distinguished by their actions and behavior, only two tough ones are memorable enough so that one can relate to them. After a vicious beginning and the aforementioned introduction, there’s just one tense moment after another, and even if it takes a while for the antagonists to show up, the director manages to keep the audience on the edge of their seat because of the natural dangers of the caves, including some very nasty wounds the camera isn’t shy to show in detail, and the darkness surrounding the group, making it tough to watch for those suffering from claustrophobia.
When the fight for survival starts, it gets really brutal with heads crushed or pierced through with bones and pickaxes. While the violence could be seen as gratuitous, it never feels like that, as the dirty look and thumping soundtrack with some shaky camera movements make it an uncompromising action movie that is both entertaining and disgusting until the end. If survival horror games have Resident Evil 4, then survival horror movies have The Descent.
The Descent: Part 2
(UK 2009, director: Jon Harris)
After having survived the horror of the caves system, one woman has to go back again with the police and other explorers to prove her innocence by looking for her missing friends.
Revisiting franchises after many years (or at least four in this case) isn’t always a good idea, especially if the original director isn’t involved (except as a producer, which doesn’t mean much these days). At first all these concerns become reality, as 45 minutes pass with the introduction of boring characters and a sense of going through a museum of dead bodies and tired memories of the past. Claustrophobia or suspense isn’t found anywhere, a pretty bad sign for a sequel that builds on the same horror pillars.
Fortunately, the pace soon picks up, with even more blood and gore than in the original. Sure, the kills and disgusting scenes are more than a little bit gratuitous, with the use of an electric drill or stones to smash in the creatures’ heads or even saw off one protagonist’s hand with a pickaxe. But in a way, if one takes it as a splatter movie with lots of action and some fun one-liners at the end, then one can have a great time. It’s only too bad that it takes too long and the story is as unoriginal as it is full of plot holes.
The Descent: Part 2 is a difficult to love movie if one tries to compare it to Marshall’s first one, as it looks and feels like a cheap cash-in with some unlikeable characters and the lack of suspense. But taking it on its own in the second half, one can dismiss all the illogical parts and simply go with it for a violent survival ride with lots of blood and guts spilled.
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