Four years ago, The Descent sprang up fresh as a daisy and red as a rose, a blood-drenched, ballsy Brit-scarer that cemented Neil Marshall (building confidently on Dog Soldiers) as this country’s great white horror hope.
The downbeat-cum-WTF ending we got in the UK seemed to rule out a direct sequel, but in the US, the re-cut climax opened the door for more… which is where this sequel comes in.
We start with potholer Sarah (Shauna Macdonald), pitching up gore-stained, and with no memory of what’s happened two days after she and her mates went missing while exploring an uncharted Appalachian cave network. Suspecting Sarah of foul play, the local sheriff (Gavan O’Herlihy) orders her and various folk from central casting to accompany him back underground.
It’s not long before terror strikes, Sarah gets her memory back and the team start dropping like flies. Stepping in for Marshall and taking his directorial bow is Jon Harris, who edited the first movie. His cutting experience stands him in good stead; he’s a dab hand at ratcheting up tension and making the most of a threadbare story.
There are plenty of jumps and spine-shuddering moments as horrors are glimpsed in the blackness and skulls are squished. Plenty of the sticky stuff too, as various bodily fluids spurt and dribble all over the screen. Good fun, then.
But you’ll share Sarah’s sense of déjà vu as, apart from adding a couple of blokes, this is the same chicks-with- picks schtick as the first film, right down to the ladies slopping about in a pool of God-knows-what.
And while the grotesque ‘crawlers’ haven’t lost any of their predatory bite, there’s no Aliens-style expansion of their mythos.
The picks are still swinging, but the stakes haven’t been raised.
Clunky start apart, an efficient, grisly splatter sequel that’s fine as far as it goes, but doesn’t go far enough. For best results, engineer your own memory loss before going in.