Descent 2 excels above many of its direct-to-DVD horror sequels peers of the past year or two. Screamer's 2 and Cabin Fever 2 come to mind. Both watchable. Both almost likable, but both ultimately cheap cash-ins on the original (in the case of Cabin Fever 2, what would that even mean?). Descent 2 is better than those two, it's just...well, ok: The Descent franchise has two enjoyable, fun horror movies under its belt, and you could write an entire term paper on the degree to which stupidity is the fuel that turns the plot engine for both. In the first, we had seasoned, well-trained cavers who lost their nerve and did everything wrong. It drove me to come up with the term "The Law of Horror Averages" (namely: no matter your background, the horror genre will average you out into a mediocre character—kids become semi-adults and soldiers freak out on the battle-field). The second one is just as bad. Sheriffs with no caving experience brashly leading a search party. Screaming idiots absolutely refusing to keep their mouth shut. A poo scene. Monsters that can navigate around stalagmites using echo location but can not hear, nor smell, gasping panicked people a few feet away. No, the franchise requires you to not think, and to just run with it. For what it's worth...
Shout outs to Dan (Douglas Hodge), Cath (Anna Skellern), Sarah (Shauna MacDonald), and Rios (Krysten Cummings) for being believable, well-played characters. Boos to the dumb sheriff, the bringing back of Juno (Natalie Mendozza, who often forgets to limp on her heavily damaged leg) (highlight to see, unless you are on a feed reader, and that might have just been spoiled, like anyone cares), and the poo scene. Semi-boos to using two almost identical neck gouging scenes and two almost identical "plummet into the darkness" scenes. Double boo (each) to the cheap, slow-panning-into-the-darkness jump scares. Cheap jumpscares suck, whoever put those there. Just FYI. Overall, though, boos kind of take backseat if you are game to play along, and I was game to play along. Gore is up a bit, though a lot of the blood looks awfully watery. You get to "revisit" old scenes from the first one (except they did not quite seem the same, but who could tell?). Monsters are uneven, but fun. Possibly a bit more claustrophobic than the first, and that's a good thing.
Final score, I guess a Fair (+0.2). Would be higher overall, but this franchise (and as of right now, a third one is coming) needs to reel in its scripted dumbness and let smart characters do smart things. Screw the justification that showed up all the time on places like IMDB.com forums: yes, it is a scary event, but stop doing it cheap. A full grade lost for that.
Si Vales, Valeo
PS: It might be worth noting that I came into this movie with low, low expectations. Had I assumed it would live up to the original, the grade might be lower. I still think it's watchable, though.
file under Horror and Zombies