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    Monday, October 27, 2008

    Countdown To Halloween - The Descent

    It's rare for a new horror film to rattle my grown-up senses and give me the heebee jeebies.

    The Descent came out a couple years ago and did well, critically and commercially, but I didn't catch it 'til it came 'round on Blu-ray.

    The story/set-up is simple: a group of adventure-seeking women embark on a caving expedition into an uncharted mine and, well, things start to go sour real quick.

    To critique a horror film for a simple plot is beside the point. Like with jazz, it ain't about the chords or the main melody, but what you do with it. How you twist it and milk it for all its worth. And The Descent approaches a John-Fucking-Coltrane level of inventiveness on a simple theme.

    Director Neil Marshall does an admirable job creating a palpable sense of dread and claustrophobia, even before the really bad stuff starts to happen. If you watch this one on a big HD screen with the surround sound up to reference level, you will be rattled to your core. Guaranteed. If you have a smaller screen, you'll just be scared shitless.

    The Blu-ray does an exquisite job capturing all the detail in the inky blackness of the cave environments, made all the more impressive when one discovers in the special features that the bulk of the film was shot on a soundstage. The 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 image is a dramatic improvement over the DVD, but of course this is to be expected. The audio choices are PCM 6.1 surround or Dolby Digital Surround EX. If you have a decent system, the sound mix will effectively raise the hairs on the back of your neck.

    Special features include commentaries, a 40+ minute documentary, interview with director Neil Marshall, deleted and extended scenes, etc.

    A choice of two endings is provided on the menu when choosing a version of the film. I prefer the international (original/unrated) cut and would recommend watching The Descent for the first time in this manner. While I won't give away the details why, I will say that it's the version most consistent with the film's overall tone.

    Go ahead and explore The Descent on Blu-ray this spooky season. Enter at your own risk...

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    © 2008 Felix E. Martinez