Generally speaking, straight-to-DVD horror sequels are not to be trusted. The Descent: Part 2 got a theatrical release in its native U.K., though, as well as in a handful of other countries, so it comes with a slightly better pedigree. The sequel to Neil Marshall’s 2005 movie about six women who encounter homicidal creatures while spelunking pretty much just repeats the plot of the original, but it manages to also capture a lot of what made Marshall’s film so unsettling. It’s tense and claustrophobic and sometimes just nasty, although it lacks the compelling character dynamics that elevated the original above a mere visceral experience.
In place of that surprisingly complex look at female friendship, Part 2 instead throws together a fairly random, gender-mixed assortment of characters to head down into the sinister Appalachian caves. Shauna MacDonald reprises her role from the original as Sarah, the group’s sole survivor, who joins a mix of rescue workers and cops to go back underground and look for her missing friends. Director Jon Harris, who edited the original, moves the characters into place for slaughter, but has a tough time drumming up much interest in them as people.
That’s forgivable when Harris can provide real jolts of fright, which he does often enough. The movie ends with sufficient ambiguity to set up a third installment, but by that point the concept has definitely run its course.