Sissy Spacek lookalike Shauna Macdonald returns as Sarah, the last girl standing (albeit wobbly-kneed) straight after escaping from 'them there' caves in the Appalachian Mountains. She has that same haunted look, but she can't remember a thing - amnesia being a lazy device for getting her back down into the jaws of hell. Before that happens though, she's hospitalised (as in Marshall's film), affording us a chance to meet a new cast of supporting bodies. They include kindly Deputy Sheriff Rios (Krysten Cummings), her brash superior Sheriff Vaines (Gavan O'Herlihy), plus a fresh-faced rescue team (Douglas Hodge, Joshua Dallas and Anna Skellern).
The latter bunch appear to have strayed off the set of a cheesy teen soap complete with naff romantic subplots. Frankly, Harris kills too much time drawing the dynamics between characters who already feel familiar thanks to a one-dimensional script. And naturally, once they descend into the caves - on a fruitless mission to rescue Sarah's missing pals (seen only in home video footage) - they start dropping like clumsy horror clichés. Amid the carnage, Sarah finally begins to remember things, but the twist is that her so-called friend Juno (Natalie Mendoza) also survived the mauling. Oh, and there was that matter of Sarah stabbing her in the leg...
Fans of the first film will recall that Juno also bedded Sarah's husband, but all that simmering angst is lost in oodles of sledgehammer violence and bucketfuls of blood. Mendoza plays Juno like Lara Croft's evil twin, the implication being that all the killing has turned her utterly cold. At times, it feels as if she's in an entirely different movie (one that could have been written for Milla Jovovich.) Thankfully, Juno does get a shot at redemption, but the way the conflict is resolved is as dubious in this film as it was in the first. This time out, instead of ending with shocking ruthlessness, it's jarringly touchy-feely and, again, there's a feeling that justice isn't properly served.
The ending also suffers, simply because Harris is more focussed on the slicing and dicing of bat-faced beasties than a proper dissection of character. By failing to get inside Sarah's head (initially because her mind is a blank!), there is no real sense of peril. Instead, he resorts to cheap shock tactics, using the dark effectively at times, but the omnipresence of the crawlers soon becomes wearying and, frankly, about as scary as a game of Where's Wally? (Except the crawlers are easier to spot.) Ultimately, The Descent 2 falls victim to the syndrome afflicting so many other modern horror films which substitute gore for genuine suspense. Macdonald makes a noble heroine, but you can't see the acting for so much gloop. The fact that she looks like Carrie will only serve as a reminder that they just don't make 'em like they used to. This is what you call 'plumbing the depths...'
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