The Descent: Part 2 Blu-ray Review
PictureThe Descent Part 2 looks fairly decent indeed in 1080p High Definition, coming to Blu-ray in its original (UK at least) theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 widescreen. Detail is generally good, considering the budget, and the picture is largely devoid of the likes of softness, noticeable edge enhancement or even grain. The colour scheme is obviously limited considering the setting, but we do get a few nice night-scope greens, flame torch yellows and blood reds, the reds looking a little off to seem fully realistic. The best thing about the largely decent video presentation has to be the black levels, which really do justice to the movie's content. It is, after all, a film packed with scare moments and torch-lit tunnels, often just part of the screen lit up at any one time, and the rest left in black. So it is great to see in quality 1080p, the black levels offering up some serious High Def glory and reminding you of the benefits of Blu-ray.
SoundThe soundtrack is also pretty damn good, considering the low budget of the production, this Blu-ray release adorned with a solid English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that works wonders with the jumpy shock-tastic sequel. The dialogue comes across clearly and coherently, from the pervasive, penetrating screams to the off-screen chatter of the nasty creatures, mainly coming from the fronts and centre channels, but utilising the surrounds where appropriate. The effects are mostly orientated around cave noises, ranging from the loud rock-falls to the more subtle scratching and pattering around in the dark. Oh and we also get plenty of bodies being ripped apart viciously. The score largely follows the same beats as the original movie, with the haunting central theme played out across some of the scenes. Otherwise, it's quite quiet and eerie, and perfectly suited to the material. The soundtrack really lights up every time a jump moment occurs, and only goes to help the shock tactics of the horror.
ExtrasWe get a nice selection of Extras to go with this inexpensive sequel, with all of the boxes ticked although obviously no sign of any specifically High-Def-designed extras (PiP etc).
The Director and Cast Commentary has the Director Jon Harris joined by main cast members Shauna Macdonald, Krysten Cummings and Anna Skellern. Macdonald is quite distinctive (because of her Scottish lilt), and Krysten gets a lot of pointed questions because this was her first every film production, and obviously the Director stands out because he's the only guy, but I have to say that I barely noticed Anna Skellern across the whole offering. There are plenty of anecdotal discussions about the production, some talk about the casting, and far too many long pauses where they all appear to be watching the movie. The Director discusses how this film can be understood to follow on from the UK cut of the original movie (although they never show the connecting footage which they describe), and also offers some insightful comments on Deleted Scenes (shown later), but the titbits on this Commentary are a little bit thin on the ground. One particular gem involves their talk about shooting at the same time as Wolfman - in the same UK location - and in the same place that the forest battle in Gladiator was filmed. Fans will want to trawl through it for all the good bits even if it is a Commentary best swallowed in small sittings, but at least we have all the people we want to provide a Commentary present and accounted for.
We get 10 minutes' worth of Standard-Def Deleted Footage, in montage format, with optional Director's Commentary to explain why the footage was excised or why alternate footage was shown. First up is an Alternate Opening, which is not the one that the Director talked about shooting in the main feature's Commentary (the one where you see how Sarah escaped after the end of the previous movie) and really offers nothing new. A couple of extra minor additions establish the new cast members (the rescue team and the Sheriff) slightly more thoroughly but were removed - justifiably - for pacing reasons. The only really decent Additional Scene is with Sarah in the hospital, which offers a nice little shock and, in my opinion, should have definitely been left in. Worth checking out, even if you skip 5 minutes' in to get to it.
The main 25-minute High Def Making Of, entitled Deeper and Darker, is split into four segments: Dark Origins; Old Wounds, New Blood; Sink Holes, Shadows and Darkness; and Crawlers, Guts and Gore. As you can probably surmise, it covers the origins of the film (talking about the original, creating a sequel that uses all of the most effective ideas), the casting of new actors to join some of the old crew , the difficulties filming in the dark (and creating a suitably scary atmosphere) and the effects work done to make the creatures and authentically allow them to wreak their bloody havoc. We have all the usual faces on board (many the same as on Part 1), along with some of the other crew members and even the producer and director of the original Neil Marshall, and all of the cast members are covered as well. A solid offering.
Storyboards and Galleries
We also get a Storyboards section, as well as a Production Design Gallery. The Storyboards cover 5 key scenes: Claustrophobia, The Map, Early Death, Sarah's Dream and Descending, and are short slideshow montages comparing the design storyboards with the comparable final film shot. The Production Design Gallery is also a slideshow offering, with dozens of photos of the cast, location, set and model-work done for the production, played over a little less than 2 minutes.
Finally we get the Theatrical Trailer (in HD) for the movie, which offers you a nice taste of the movie but has a few too many spoilers in it (for those paying attention).
VerdictThe Descent Part 2 follows on from a story that arguably should have stopped with Part 1. Still, fans of The Descent will be pleased to know that they get much of the same here with the sequel, and, whilst originality may be lacking, this one still clearly lives up to the old 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' adage. Maintaining claustrophobic tension, packing a few nice surprises, and oozing with nasty gore, this one lets down in the characters department somewhat, but allows fans of the original to get more in the same vein. I think it's an unwise move to go for a trilogy, but they have painfully obviously set things up to go in that direction (most likely STV) and, who knows, if it turns out like this maybe that won't be such a bad thing.
On UK Blu-ray we get decent video to showcase the shadow-dominated affair, and solid audio to allow you to jump when appropriate, along with a great selection of extras that cover all the bases. Fans of the original may be a little surprised (and not in a good way) that it got a sequel, but once you get over the initial shock, this isn't such a bad movie after all. Nothing was going to really live up to The Descent, but Part 2 is far from a bad low budget sequel, with the same cast and crew giving us a little hint of the same magic. Newcomers should definitely check out the original first, however, you won't be disappointed.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £28.99
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