Welcome, dear readers, to Substream’s 31 Days of Halloween. While every holiday captures the hearts and minds of the Substream staff, Halloween holds an especially important place in our hearts. Now that we’ve entered the month of October, it’s time for us to share our love for this holiday with you.
Every single day in October, our collection of spooky staff writers and ghoulish guest contributors will walk you through a horror or Halloween-themed movie they adore. The goal is to both celebrate the titans and icons of the season while also introducing you to new films and scares to fill your autumn nights. Lock your doors, check under your bed, and settle in as you join Substream for our 31 Days of Halloween.
Day 11: The Descent: Part 2 (2009)
When I first found out that this feature was getting brought back to life, I was very excited. I’ve followed it for a while, and to have a chance to be a part of it had me eager to get started. As we started making picks, The Descent immediately went to the top of my request list. As one of my favorite movies, it was a no-brainer. Unfortunately, we’re on a word count limit, [Ed. note: Eric could have written 3000 words on this if I let him] so that would have been tricky to rein myself in. Also, it was already done a few years back.
For some context, I’d suggest you go give that a look, it’s a good read. Also, since our goal here is to get our readers to go watch these movies, we try to avoid spoilers. And though I’ll try to do my best at keeping the bulk of Part 2 vague, I do have to mention some core plot points from the first one to show how we got here. So, if you haven’t seen The Descent, I’d suggest bookmarking this until you do. And even if you have seen it, why not go watch it again anyway, it’s fantastic.
Still here? Cool. Okay, let’s get started. Mild spoilers ahead.
Picking up right where The Descent concludes, Part 2 begins with our heroine Sarah found battered and bloody on the side of the road in the days following her escape from “Boreham” Caverns. While a climbing party searches for the missing spelunkers at the mouth of actual Boreham, a pair of officers, partners Vaines and Rios, are radioed that Sarah has been located above ground miles away and sent to a nearby hospital.
Partially sedated and heavily scarred, Sarah wakes up calling out for her friends and daughter. While Rios tries explaining the situation, Vaines sees a blood-covered victim found miles from where she was supposed to be and has a party of missing climbers to find. As the only known survivor of the party, Sarah is brought to the mineshaft where her scent was picked up and the three, joined by a small group of experienced climbers and explorers, return to the caves to search for Sarah’s friends.
It’s clear from very early on that Part 2 is going to be a very similar film, but major differences right away keep it from being the same movie again. Most obvious – men. The group in the first film is comprised entirely of women and following the first scene, there isn’t a (human) male character present throughout the movie. Here, the climbing party is a 50-50 split. Where there are various changes here and there, the tension and suspense are the same. With most of the exposition work already done in the first film, Part 2 is allowed to move a bit slower at first. Once it starts moving, it’s full speed ahead and down.
The combination of the pure, untouched dangers that the natural surroundings bring paired with the abominable creatures that could be lurking in any corner or crevice is a dual threat that few franchises could say they achieve. What makes the film so unsettling is never knowing which is the bigger threat. The survivors find themselves disoriented, separated, isolated, submerged in water and suspended in air. And surrounded. Hunted. Each of these feelings are driven into the viewer’s own emotions – your breath gets short as they dip under the water, you grit your teeth as a helmet or headlamp grinds against the stone, you squint your eyes trying to discern calcium deposit from carnivorous Crawler.
One of the cleverer things Part 2 does is the way it uses the first film as landmarks to progress itself along. More spoilers here but things … don’t go very well for almost the entire group of explorers in the original. Being back in the same unexplored location immediately following the events of the original film, it’s no surprise that things are as the first movie left them. While some things the survivors pick up prove to be helpful, like supplies and items scattered along the way, others would have been better left not found.
Although it doesn’t hold a candle (or headlamp, I suppose) to its predecessor, which would be a hefty task as it is, The Descent: Part 2 dives in deeper and is just as much of a claustrophobic bloodbath as the first.
More than a decade removed from the sequel and almost fifteen years since the original, there hasn’t been any word about any further plans for the franchise. But when there are a dozen reboots and remakes being written every time you turn around, I would love to see another entry into what could be an expanded franchise. Though I don’t know where the storylines could lead, I know exactly where they’d end up. If no further films happen, then The Descent: Part 2, while flawed, is a commendable sequel to one of the best horror films of the 2000’s. But if someone does decide that there is more to potentially be explored, then these two films have just scratched the surface.