If you don’t remember, last year there was a lot of buzz building online about it – but the buzz eventually disappeared because it wasn’t released in America. It kind of got forgotten, sadly. Other imports came and went, but The Descent: Part 2 was swept under a rug.
Recently, the film hit DVD and VOD, and I checked it out. It was directed by the editor of the original film, which was a vote of confidence that it wouldn’t be terrible. But unfortunately The Descent: Part 2 is missing a crucial ingredient that made the original so good: a group of characters completely removed from the horrific space. By this I mean that the characters in the original are truly unaware of their ominous situation, and all of the characters are truly ignorant to the horrors that eventually befall them.
The characters in the sequel do not personally know the female fivesome from the original; however, they are a search party seeking the aforementioned women out, with the help of Sarah (Shauna McDowell). This is a big problem: the movie sets itself up to be a prolonged epilogue for the original, instead of an independent entity. This film seeks to answer questions, rather than raise any of its own. As you watch it, you start wanting something new and different from the original … but things happen exactly the same as they did in the first film. In fact, the movie answers questions from the first film that you’d rather be left unanswered.
For this fan of horror sequels and premises, The Descent: Part 2 was a bit of a letdown. Horror sequels, if done right, are a fun chance for a concept to live out unfulfilled fantasies allowed for by the original film. The Descent: Part 2‘s mistakes demonstrate why sequels to A Nightmare On Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Halloween, and Scream have all been successful: they have the same premise, but different plots.
Naturally, The Descent: Part 2 is a different plot. Yet it isn’t far enough removed from the original that it stands on its own, or even in conjunction with the original. In order to grasp how this misstep happened, let’s take a look at A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, one of the best horror sequels of all time.
At this point in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, we are well aware of what is going on in this world: a fiend named Freddy Kreuger is haunting teens as they sleep, preying on them in their dreams. It is an easy enough premise that just needs a curve ball thrown in.
Freddy’s Revenge didn’t stray that far, but far enough from the original plot: a different family, completely new to the premise of Freddy, enters and horror ensues when Freddy uses one of them to enter the waking world. But in part three, we are given a curve ball to our curve ball: a group of kids in a psychiatric hospital that, with the help of Nancy, are able to control their dreams and get Freddy at his own game.
The Descent is much like Nightmare, in that it has a rich base premise that you can fuck with and have fun with: a cave full of blind crawlers who hunt by sound! Yet, The Descent: Part 2 did not cash in on the lush premise because it was too occupied trying to solve The Descent‘s problems to be its own movie. All this does is ruin “what we once had” with the original: the waters have been tainted, and the strength and credibility of the original has been debased.
I posit that they should have used the same premise (blind, carnivorous, humanoid Crawlers, who hunt by sound) with the addition of a curve ball: a truly different plot. With a strong premise, you can plug anything into this equation. In Nightmare, part two was a completely new family. In part three, the kids already have a history with dreams, unrelated to Freddy.
Let’s simplify the conversation by putting The Descent in an equation format:
PART ONE: Group of Adventurous, Drama Filled Women + Blind Cave Dwellers = HORROR
Now that we have that basic equation, what happened in part two? Let’s examine:
PART TWO: Disparate Group of Cops and Professional Cavers Searching for Aforementioned Adventurous, Drama Filled Women + Blind Cave Dwellers = AN UNNECESSARY ENDING TO PART ONE’S STORY
There are plenty of ways that part two (or even a part three, part four, etc.) could have worked. The fantastic premise did not realize its potential in the sequel. The Descent: Part 2 missed the basic equation The Descent sought to answer:
HOW TO MAKE A DESCENT: (Insert Third Party Group Who Happen Upon or Seek The Cave) + Blind Cave Dwellers = HORROR
Now that sounds like an easy enough recipe to fuck with. I’ve been tinkering in my lab to create a few equations for potential sequels that could work. Here are the improvements for future Descents:
PART ALPHA: Group of Blind High School Girls from a Camp for Blind Girls, who are led astray by a Careless Counselor + Blind Cave Dwellers = INTENTIONAL HILARITY AND TERROR
PART BETA: Group of Bitchy Sorority Girls who have car trouble late at night and decided to camp at a cave’s base + Blind Cave Dwellers (who hunt outside the cave at night–remember?) = BOOBS AND HORROR, AKA MEAN GIRLS IN A CAVE
PART GAMMA: A Reality Television Crew who work on a Man VS Wild type of show + Blind Cave Dwellers = ACTION AND HORROR
PART EPSILON: Group of Reformed Blind Cave Dwellers + Blind Cave Dwellers = ? (Ed: Sober House with Dr. Drew?)
Sequels or new entries in a series in horror films are as easy as that, folks: just take the original conceit and add in a completely alien circumstance, and – BA BOOM – you have a fresh take on an old story! Again, new entries in a horror franchise are typically in no way near as good as the original. But they can bring something fresh, fun, and new to the table.
The Descent: Part 2 missed missed the mark … maybe The Descent: Part 3 will do a better job?