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Double Down Braves THE DESCENT: PART 2!!!

Beaks here...

I don't do well in tight, confined spaces, so Neil Marshall's THE DESCENT did quite a number on me. And since I'm a huge fan of panic attacks, I've been eagerly anticipating the sequel since it was announced last year. The sequel brings back the two leads (Shauna Macdonald as Sarah, and Natalie Jackson Mendoza as Juno), which is quite a feat considering one of them was extremely dead at the end of the first film. Marshall, meanwhile, is only credited as an executive producer; veteran editor Jon Harris - who cut SNATCH and LAYER CAKE as well as THE DESCENT - has been promoted to the director's chair. Can he bring back the claustrophobic terror of Marshall's original? Let's check in with Double Down...
Hi all, I caught the world's first test screening of The Descent: Part 2 last night. My review is below. The Descent: Part 2 I vote for a new title. This film should instead be named The Descent: Remixed. It’s a hip title right? The kids will dig it! Because I don’t see any other crowd they’re making this movie for besides the teenagers who are willing to hand over $12 on opening weekend to sit through some mindless “horror” for an hour and a half, Twitter during it, then forget about it the next morning. Part 2 begins exactly where Part 1 ends and therein lies its first problem of many more to come. If you’re a fan of The Descent (like I am) then you’ll know that the UK version (and I’m assuming the version shown all over the world ex. the U.S. ) ends with our heroine Sarah trapped in the caverns, meditating on the acceptance of her fate and dwelling on her deceased daughter. Then it was bastardized for American audiences because apparently we can’t handle a bleak ending and that final shot was deleted leading us to believe that Sarah gets out of her cavernous hell, gets in her car and as she drives away her “friend” Juno shows up (as a ghost?) in her passenger seat. Role credits. If you haven’t seen it it’s as bad as it sounds. A truly corny mid-level ending to what was honestly one of the few great horror films of this decade. Part 2 opens with Sarah, Shauna Macdonald returns to the role, being found by a local trucker on the Appalachian highway. So now the American ending is being followed? How will this make sense to viewers outside of the U.S. ? Are they (and we who have it on DVD) to believe that she actually did make it out of the cave? I’m assuming that’s the logic the film makers were using and it’s that “logic” that infects the entire film. Sarah conveniently doesn’t remember a thing from her experience and local authorities are in a panicked rush to find the rest of the female spelunkers whose fates we witnessed in the first film. It turns out that Juno, played again by Natalie Jackson Mendoza, is actually the daughter of a Senator, hence the hubbub. We soon learn the rescue team has been looking in the wrong place since as we discovered in the first installment Juno fooled everyone into entering an unknown cave system while deceivingly mapping out a charted one. As soon as the team finds what they think is the right system the local sheriff, who constantly seems overly-concerned, yanks poor Sarah out of the hospital to help them in their search. Sarah remains mute for the first 30 minutes of the film with a terrified look engrained on her face (think Newt in Aliens). As soon as shit starts hitting the stalactites her memory comes rushing back and she turns into Ripley, a confident bad ass who all of a sudden is an expert on how to deal with man-eating sub humans. Meanwhile throughout the entire remainder of the film the rescue team and sheriffs turn into infants who can barely handle themselves. The rest of the story you can honestly fill in if you’ve seen the first one. Rocks fall, people get trapped, the monsters attack (I’m sorry, ancient humans who got stuck but can now find their way out but have evolved so much they can’t get normal jobs on the surface), people die, there are pickaxes through skulls and a big heroic/dramatic ending occurs. It’s that predictable, uninspired and unnecessary. For one the direction (taken on by first timer Jon Harris) just isn’t as well executed as it was with original director Neil Marshall. I felt the geography of the cave systems were much more comprehensible under Marshall ’s photography. The caves themselves even looked more authentic. Almost every shot in Part 2 looks like a set and that makes it inherently less creepy. Marshall also conveyed a much better sense of claustrophobia than Harris does in the systems, especially in the trapped scenes. The dialogue is completely forgettable, even laughable toward the end. Not to say the original had fantastic dialogue but the characters were more well-developed and sympathetic. There’s also something to say about the all female cast of the original. The dynamics of that group were much more intriguing. Here we have men and women running aimlessly through the rock and it just seems less unique. The third act is noticeably sluggish and monotonous. We’ve been in these systems before. We’ve seen people react exactly the same way when the monsters show up - “what are these things?!”, “we have to find a way out!” And in the caverns this new cast comes across every dead body which we saw dispersed of in the original – as if to remind us this film is just a corpse of its predecessor. As you’ve seen from the trailer Juno is inexplicably alive and acts just as Sarah does - a fully fledged bad ass who can now take out multiple creatures at the same time. I’d write more but all I’d like to say is this: fucking stupid. There are however some cool scenes, fret not gore hounds. Sarah and the Sheriff’s deputy battle a creature in a pool (much like the 1st one) and soon after realize the pool ain’t filled with water. There is some intensity to be found such as a close-quarters scene where a girl from the rescue team gets trapped in a tiny passage and a creature attacks. There are also a couple of creative and gory set pieces in the endless chasm from the first film. Overall, there is a decent amount of blood-letting in which the shots last for a few too many seconds entering into exploitative territory. And the blood itself was that great fake 70’s blood, that truly bright red from Giallo films. Yet the kills themselves are uninventive and no different from the first film. Throat tears and axes to the skulls - not even an eye gouge was to be found. This is arguably gorier and more violent but not noticeably more so. I was terrified that they’d feel the need to up the ante with these creatures and show us a “mother alien” or God forbid a creature hybrid of some sort (Predalien anyone?), but thankfully the writers chose to put down the bong and not fall into this cliché chasm. The problem is we don’t learn anything new about these creatures - nothing about their origin, or how their community works; are they are unique to these Appalachian Mountains ? We learn the same things we did in the first, less in fact. They’re blind, hunt above ground and like the taste of human flesh when it’s delivered to them. You arguably learn a tidbit at the very end of the film. Of course I won’t give it away but there is a twist. And it makes no sense - again keeping in line with the original (at least the American ending). It actually downright pissed me off because it is so unexplained and unsubstantiated throughout the whole film it’s like a punch in the gut and a poor gimmick which seems like a desperate ploy to be set apart from the original and God forbid setup a third installment. There is also the typical slew of pop-up scares with musical cue hits to tell you that you should jump at this point and those moments where the monster is right behind them. These creatures act a bit more menacing, screaming at you for a good amount of time before they eat you, but it is actually less affecting toward the audience – they just aren’t as scary now, in fact they often come across as goofy and devoid of intelligence. The camera work is helmed by the same cinematographer from the first, Sam McCurdy, and the action scenes are still just as shaky. Is it possible to hold a camera still in horror anymore or is that a stipulation in contracts now? The Descent: Part 2 is like dating a fatter, dumber version of your ex. What’s the point? Just go back to the original if you get the urge to go spelunking again. Please check out for more. Thanks! Double Down

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