Sweaty palms, a feverish pulse rate and regular hits of adrenalin – all are part of The Descent experience. Fans were worrying the sequel might dilute the white-knuckle tension, but you know what? The second journey underground is more terrifying than ever.
This means a rough ride for the audience from the off. With the original crew reunited, director of the first film, Neil Marshall, moves sideways to executive producer, overseeing the film with Jon Harris, who makes his feature directing debut.
The story picks up where the first horrific chapter ended. For those not in the know, this was a tale of ‘chicks with picks’, a group of friends, with unfinished emotional business, going off the recommended route in an Appalachian cave mission. They went missing at the hands (and teeth) of some vicious mutant cave dwellers – though of course the rescue mission, dropping in with hair in place and teeth whitened – weren’t to know that.
Their faade drops immediately, and that’s when the one person to get above ground, Sarah Carter (Shauna MacDonald) comes back to life. It soon becomes apparent that said vicious beasts are intent on finishing their job, and with new horrors around every claustrophobic twist and turn, the tension never lets up.
Most horrors have their ‘comfy bits’, where you know from the music, lighting or poise of the plot that nothing bad is going to happen. No such luck here, so the knuckles stay white all the way through. The audience lurches from outright disgust to sidesplitting humour at the horrors bestowed upon them. Harris and Marshall know their target audience and how to manipulate it without talking down to them, and with subtle references to Alien and Marshall’s own Dog Soldiers, the plot forges ahead.
In space, no one can hear you scream. Well, in a cave, everyone can hear you whisper, and that’s what the menacing cave dwellers work on as they seek to pick off the group of volunteers. It’s a bloody mess – literally – but at the same time characters are formed, and fragile emotions are tied together and then ripped apart.
While not having the groundbreaking shocks of the original plot, this is nonetheless a sequel that makes the earth move. Fans of the original will not be remotely disappointed – and will be looking behind them on their way out of the cinema.