Despite Neil Marshall's departure from the director's chair, THE DESCENT editor Jon Harris manages to step in and provide all of the same great aesthetic, claustrophobia, and sheer terror that the 2005 surprise hit delivered four years earlier. PART 2 (as opposed to 2) becomes a powerful statement going in to the sequel, as this genuinely feels like the second half to THE DESCENT's whole.
The action picks up immediately where the original left off, as Sarah returns to the remote caverns with a rescue team that has been assigned to locate the missing climbers after they failed to report back from their trip. Their mission brings them face to face with more subterranean terrors, as they must survive through cave-ins and the monsters hiding in the dark.
Outside of Sarah's convenient memory loss and the obvious negligence in forcing an amnesiac into a search and rescue operation, the plot serves as an excellent approach in continuing the story. The filmmakers have set out to create a reversal of many of the essential themes driving the first film (loss of humanity, destruction of friendships, and others), which they have succeeded in in every way possible. PART 2 also earns a high level of legitimacy in the return of the entire original crew, as well as its two female leads in Shauna Macdonald and Natalie Mendoza. This is taken a step further in the reprisal of the original score and Neil Marshall's attachment as Executive Producer. Building on the continued theme of female empowerment, we also find that the men of THE DESCENT: PART 2 are weak, helpless, and impulsive, where the women remain strong, intuitive, and resourceful.
While Harris does attempt to recreate many of the successful scares from Marshall's film, he has created a fresh palette of unique and perfectly crafted thrills that give his work a life of its own. Skeptical fans of THE DESCENT will be pleasantly surprised and shocked at many of the terrifying jumps the same way that they will enjoy the nauseating tension and suspense generated as the rescue workers squeeze through the impossibly tight passageways. The cave crawlers are just as fierce and menacing as they were before, but they still only pose half of the threat compared to the many cave-ins, dead ends, and suffocating quarters. Sarah's character arc is just as integral to the story of this second film as it had been previously, and Macdonald continues to shine in the role as she rebuilds much that was lost in her last cave dive. In addition, PART 2 packs on the gore in all the right places, without ever relying on it to mask any deficiencies in the plot.
THE DESCENT: PART 2 may be one of the strongest series sequels to come out of the last decade, taking each of the successful elements of the original film and expanding them even further. It is that much more surprising that the film was not given a theatrical release, but it can expect to see a growing rise in interest on DVD.
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