Sunday, 25 July 2010

The Descent Part Two Review

Many iterations of the lunar cycle ago a film know as The Descent came along teaching the valuable lesson that if you happen to go camping take care not to accidentally take a wrong turn and end up in The Lord of the Rings hunted by an army of Sméagols. It was an enjoyable exercise of claustrophobia and claret that made clever use of paranoia that breeds in the dark; with a script writer that obviously realizes a group of women spending time in the same space will invariably argue over something as trivial clashing cave expedition attire. Also the ambiguous ending was a fresh air from typical horror films where always as the protagonists facing certain death they will be rescued by a power amour wearing, FAMAS wielding Nordic superhero, and everyone will survive to skip along in meadows hand in hand.

Well in one fell swoop that ending has been swept aside like an Anemic during hurricane Katrina as a new installment has been added which retcons the ending for no reason other than pulling an old Dick Turpin. The continuation of the story has less credibility than Pinocchio at an Honesty Conference; somehow Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) who lest we forgot was left without hope at the end of the last 99 minutes has survived, and been left with a case of plot convenience amnesia – the type that fucking Jason Bourne has been hogging. This set up is so that we are subjected to another 94 minutes of exactly the same movie - pretty much like every single RomCom ever made (I fully expect angry single middle-aged female readers to send their vicious cats to me in revenge for that comment).

So instead of letting the audience formulate their own opinions as to the fate of the protagonist we have this dross crammed down our throats; and it is somewhat insulting to my intelligence like I'm a retard being taken to the cinemas by a helper who feels compelled to explain the ending. Now you may be confused as to why I treat this film the same way I would treat a time traveler from the 1970's when it is almost identical to the prequel which I enjoyed. The reason being that not only does it not add anything new to the table as if it were the World's most timid poker player, but it also doesn't do things as well as its predecessor. For example:


The cave dwellers don't bother hiding in the shadows thus the audience gets to examine the antagonists in detail, breaking the major rule of horror movies. The rule that things become less frightening once they are clearly visible and out in the open, except perhaps male genitalia. In the 1950's having 'creature features' with monsters that looked like the actor that was supposed to be portraying them had an unfortunate accident in a tire yard en route to work would have been enough to frighten most movie-goers; but I would like to think that in the modern age cinematographers would employ more subtle techniques, merely alluding at the presence of some evil force that wants to display the protagonist’s thoracic cage on the lair’s mantelpiece by giving us (the viewer) teasing glimpses of eldritch creature #46. Or to just stick a sex scene in there ala Uwe Boll.

The sense of claustrophobia isn’t used to its potential either, used perhaps once when Elen Rios (Krysten Cummings) and Sarah have to navigate through a narrow, water filled tunnel. However Mr. Jon Harris (The Director) I think much akin to the blind archer you missed the vital point. Characters in horror movies are conduits to evoke emotions from the audience, so by making the babysitter slowly navigate through a dimly lit clown daycare centre it draws on the audiences’ fear of the dark and clowns. But what Jon Harris did here was have the character go into a panic attack due to the fact she has phobias of both the Hydra and Claustro variety, but because the director doesn’t try to force that sense of fear and dread onto us Elen comes across as annoying; when we should have felt as though we were using the middle urinal in-between two obese men.

Part of the reason why the original worked so well was seeing how the survivors dealt which the combination of fighting off randomly spawning creatures in dire need of Vitamin D, being in a cave as unstable as Ronnie Wood’s relationships and of course each other. Often they made bad decisions, which was fine because it hit home as I have the survival skills of Jedward’s hairdresser. Enter a surly young chap known as “the sequel”, with an ensemble cast of three cave experts (which removes the threat of navigating the cave), and two Police Officers – one of whom brings a gun, however the gun serves about as much use as Karen Carpenter’s dietarian. Oh yeah and Sarah and Juno (Natalie Mendoza) (the latter of which is still inexplicably alive) have fell victim to the typical horror movie franchise rule – any female lead that survives the original will become a bad-ass. Towards the end of the film if the pair didn’t have sweater meat you would be forgiven for believing you had accidently tuned into 300.


Riding straight off the back of that metaphor; the characters in the first film were a closely knit group helping their friend Sarah come to terms with the tragedy which had befell her. They were everyday people, the type you pass on the street or in my case observe through a telescopic sight on a bolt-action M40A3 from several rooftops away. As the proverbial excrement hits the proverbial fan the women act in the manner an average Joe would - panicking as they face an unknown enemy in an unknown environment. Juno even proves the 'every man for himself' concept extends to the fairer sex. Part two has a co-ed cast all of whom are about as interesting as sitting an advanced algebra course at Universal Studios.

Sarah continues to play the tragic role for most of the film, as she suffers from amnesia and slowly regains memories of the horrors that begot her and her friends. Dan (Douglas Hodge) fills the role of resident douchebag. Sheriff Vaines (Gavan O'Herlihy),looking like a cheap Captain Birdseye impersonator, is the world’s worst Sheriff – yes beating even Sheriff Will Teasle from First Blood. Greg (Joshua Dallas) and Cath (Anna Skellern) are mostly forgettable, Cath spending most of the movie trapped under rubble before inevitably becoming the latest recipient of The Darwin Award. Aside from Vaines, who uses his superior sleuthing abilities to come to the conclusion that any competent law enforcer would have arrived at around the time Sarah is admitted to hospital covered in her missing friends' blood, there is no real confrontation between the characters; making the tensions between the group seem very passive like a rave in the House of Lords.


Pacing is where the majority of horror movies fail, usually falling into one of two categories – either being so quick to get off the mark and have the unlucky protagonists torn out of their birthday suits that it forgets to tie its shoelaces or setting the mood and establishing characters that slowly the only thing to fear from said movies is unrelenting boredom. Part one etched a middle ground, not taking forever to give us what we wanted (an abattoir worthy offering of gore) but taking enough time for relevant character development so the entire experience couldn’t be replicated by watching Big Brother and squirting ketchup on the Telescreen every now and then.

The Descent Part Two is in the style of the former, by the first ten minutes a reason for re-entering the cavern has been established, at the 15 minute mark they have become perilously trapped and who knows if it had stretched out to 100 minutes the group probably would have been the first Civilization to build a wonder. Not only that but when the writers place a character in-between a rock and a hard place, it serves pretty much as a guarantee that character is going to be killed off instantly – there is no fight for survival or struggle to up the stakes in tension and keep the viewer on the edge of their seat. This is a prime example of bad storytelling, after all even Goldilocks had the constant fear of a mauling.


Getting back on track, I just don’t believe this film has anything new to add especially since the original worked well as a standalone movie, and just like Daniel Baldwin doesn’t need to exist. Aside from a particularly brutal standout scene in which Vaines’ hand is hacked off with a pick-axe it’s a pretty standard affair which could have been produced from the mind of the laziest Hollywood hack in a coma. The acting being serviceable is not a good enough reason to salvage a movie, and while I’m here – why in a cave with no access to light sources other than emergency flares and flashlights is it brighter than the average lighthouse? Why in a police investigation searching for several missing women does the search party consist of only six people? And how the hell is Juno still alive – Divine intervention or poor research?

These were just several thoughts circling my mind as I tried to distract myself from what a truly uninspired film this was. It could be recommended to horror fans and fans of the first movie but there are too many flaws and not enough redeeming features; a line that should be used as the motto for the Miss Alabama beauty pageant.

Stop right there before you act like an over-excited child on Christmas Eve and open all your presents early, because as Ron Popeil said “But wait, there’s more!”

The Crusades of a Critic Awards 2010

A year ago to this date a Marquis of Hell known as Amon bestowed upon me the gift of Wrath which coupled with my megalomania led to the creation of The Crusades of a Critic, a personal torture chamber. Now as my brain child reaches its first anniversary I take time out to hand out awards and pay tribute to some special people I met on the way.

Awards to Bloggers

The Stalin Approved Misanthrope Award

Goes to: Scrappy

A fellow misanthrope who also suffers from a condition known as ‘bluntlystateitgitis’. She receives this award for putting douchebags in their place monthly and for being the result of an insane experiment to turn the Hulk’s anger into something productive.

You Just F**ked My Mind Award

Goes to: Smith

This award goes to a wordsmith who enjoys writing short stories with content that can only be found elsewhere in H.P. Lovecraft’s therapist’s mind. Or etched onto the wall of the basement of Josef Fritzl for that matter.

Pussy Patrol Award

Goes to: Smith

Another award for Smith because of her ability of locating highly amusing lolcat memes without fail, as though she were built by Skynet for that very purpose and sent back in time. The last person with this level of pussy tracking ability was Jack the Ripper.

Wise Old Man Award

Goes to: Legacy

I have no fucking idea what Legacy looks like, but I do imagine it’s a cross between Gandalf the Gray and Father Christmas. He receives this award for being an entertaining personality on the site’s forum and for displaying more wisdom then two of the fucking wise men who thought it would be a good idea to give baby Jesus embalming oil and incense.