EXCLUSIVE The Descent 2 - Director Interviewed

SFX: At the end of The Descent we weren’t sure if anyone was going to make it out of the caves alive. Did you think about doing this one with an entirely new cast?

Jon Harris: “It was one of the possible ways we could have approached a sequel but we didn’t consider it for long. To start again with new cavers would have absolutely felt like a re-tread of the first film.

“I wanted to continue Sarah’s story so that by the end of Part Two you feel you have followed the whole journey all the way from the white water caving trip and the death of her husband and daughter at the start of the first film.”

Would you have done the film if Shauna and the other stars hadn’t been up for it?

“Shauna was definitely a big part of all our plans from the start so it would have been very difficult to conceive of doing it without her. And luckily everyone involved in the first film, cast and crew, seemed to have such fond memories and affection for the first film that they couldn’t wait to be involved in some way. Once they all saw that I was serious in my intentions and was keeping the flame alive they were all happy to come back.”

Was it tough coming up with a way to continue the story and go back into the caves? Did you discard lots of ideas before you went with the one you went with in the movie?

“There were a few ideas passed around but nothing stuck for very long. I knew all the things I didn’t want to do, like send in the marines to kill all the crawlers, that would have been terrible.

“I wanted the film to be about paranoia and suspicion, with a small group of people all slowly falling apart as they are forced to choose and change their loyalties to each other as the awfulness of their situation slowly dawns on them. And it’s so much scarier when they are almost defenseless from these vile clawing creatures that pop up when you least expect them.”

Were you worried personally about following on from such a popular, well-received movie?

“It was a good challenge. There was a pressure to deliver something as good as or better than the original and I wouldn’t have gone into it if I didn’t think we could do that. I took everything I learned from editing the first film and figured out how to put new twists on things.

“People want to be on familiar territory with a sequel, after all that’s why they’ve come, but the challenge was to try new things under the same banner. Personally I enjoyed the challenge of meeting those expectations. It’s very exciting to think there’s anticipation for the film.

“I really hope that people go and see this in a theatre as that’s really the best way to experience it, huddled in the dark with terrified strangers. It’s almost like being down there for real.”

Traditionally monster movie sequels show you something about the monsters you haven’t seen before. Will we be seeing anything new from the Crawlers? Will we learn more about them and their origins?

“You may pick up a little more about how they exist underground but to be honest we made a horror film not a wildlife documentary. The Descent was really not about the crawlers and neither is Part One. They simply exist as part of this terrible environment that our characters find themselves in. To over explain them would have been hokey. The story is about survival and what people are prepared to do to save themselves.”

What do you think is scarier: the claustrophobia of the caves or the threat of the crawlers? Was it a challenge balancing the two?

“I think the combination of the two is the key factor. Down in the caves we are already in a terrible, deadly, claustrophobic environment. There are plenty of ways to die. But when you introduce these horrible creatures when there’s simply nowhere to run to then you have fear on a pretty base level.

“And when you’re stuck back to back with another person it could be you or them that survives and that’s when you are forced to make some very difficult choices.”

Did you go caving yourself to get a sense of what it might be like for the characters in the movie?

“I have been caving a few times in my life including swimming deep into a cenote in Mexico which is like a long, winding water-filled tunnel that just goes further and further into the earth often getting narrower and narrower.

“I’ve also scuba dived in caves 40 meters under water in Malta, including a cave ‘chimney’ which you swim up to a little air pocket. You’re in this little mini-cave and you can take your regulator out and breathe yet you’re still about 30 meters under the sea.

“I have a very healthy claustrophobia but it only properly kicks in when I realise I can’t remember the way out. That’s why I knew our characters had to be trapped and disorientated. It’s just such a terrible feeling of helplessness which literally makes your head spin. You simply stop thinking rationally and your brain will make you do anything to get out of there.”

How much has Neil Marshall been involved with the movie?

“Neil is a great friend of mine and he has been incredibly supportive of me the whole way. We bonded on the first film over our love of obscure films and editing The Descent was one of the happiest jobs I have ever done.

“Neil came to the set on several occasions and I sometimes felt I was in his playground playing with all his chums but he was very gracious about it. It was partly his idea, along with Christian Colson the producer, that I should be the one to direct Part 2. I think he was confident that I understood the material and wouldn’t let the side down.”

How did you find making the transition from editor to director?

“It was great. I’ve always thought of myself as a filmmaker whatever aspect of the production I was involved in. I’ve spent a lot of time on film sets and directed second unit on several films including The Descent, Eden Lake and Stardust and I directed short films when I was younger.

“The best part was working with the actors. Once I got over the early mornings and the realisation that I was responsible for everything with nowhere to hide I just got on with the challenge. I’m very glad I did ’cos it’s been a great experience.”

The Descent: Part 2- In cinemas Dec 4 (previews 2-3 Dec)
Visit: http://www.thedescent2.co.uk/ for more information