The Descent

DVD Rating: ****

Reviewed by: Scott Macdonald

Read Scott Macdonald's film review of The Descent
The Descent

Neil Marshall's stupendously scary horror is presented in a two disc special edition. Menus are stylish and well designed, if a little annoying in that choosing a selection isn't controlled by the remote's directional pad. A flashlight passes across each selection and once it's over the one you want, hit Enter. Not too bad if you want to watch the movie quickly, I guess, and it does fit the style of the film very well.

Anyway, The Descent looks good on DVD, with superb shadow detail, which suits a movie set underground, where the light plays tricks. Set your television's brightness and contrast correctly, and turn off the lights to fully appreciate the transfer. Colour rendition and fine detail is good, with only a mild hint of filtering and sharpening for easier compression.

Copy picture

Dolby Digital and a full-rate (1536kbps) DTS 5.1 surround showcases The Descent's wonderful audio mix. Effects are recorded crisply with some terrific stereo surround reverb. Listen as the Crawlers are revealed. They can be heard panning in every corner of your home cinema. Admittedly, the mix is not as well engineered, or convincing, as some recent high-profile releases, but it most definitely reflects the theatrical experience.

There are 16 chapter stops, all well placed, with audio switching on the fly permitted.

There are two audio commentaries. Writer/director Marshall is on hand for both of them, with the all girl cast, sans Natalie Mendoza, on track 1. They're up for a laugh and moderately entertaining, picking out all their favourite moments and well designed pastiches from other films, such as Carrie, The Shining and Deliverance. Lots of nitty-gritty details about getting cold, claustrophobic, wet and occasionally ill. The second track has much of Marshall's crew, discussing and occasionally criticising creative decisions on the lighting, set design, editing and sound design. It's an informative filmmaking commentary, with Marshall justifiably proud of his work and the impact it has had on British audiences. (At the time of recording, it has yet to find a distributor in the US, but I understand that Lion's Gate recently picked it up for a limited theatrical run.)

Disc 2 starts off with a 40-minute Making Of documentary, with the complete cast in full on gush mode. Marshall seems quietly reserved, but pleased with how well things are going. There are lots of movie-clips, B-roll footage of scenes being rehearsed and shot, and plenty of Crawler makeup and tests. It's a pretty good Making Of, if often uninspired and explanatory.

There's also around 10 minutes of faintly uninteresting deleted scenes, including early chatter sequences, where the girls get pissed, and more footage of them clambering down into the bowels of the earth and a very wisely cut early reveal of a Crawler.

The outtakes have been assembled into a self-proclaimed Blooper Reel, some fairly funny stuff, including a Crawler strutting it's moves on a green screen dance floor, having decidedly un-natural relations with a bloody corpse.

Brief text-only biographies of the performers and crew is next, along with a short gallery of photographs (including the dog to whom the film is dedicated!)

Three scenes (the white water rapids, the initial descent into the cave and one other) are granted a storyboard-to-film comparison, which reveals just how loosely Marshall uses his storyboards; like many films, they're rarely taken as gospel, but a useful guide to hammer out the visual structure prior to shooting.

Three trailers, one in the style of the famous Alien trailer, where abstract imagery is thrown at you, with nary a glimpse of the horror, and a showpiece stinger to finish it off, complete the disc.

Reviewed on: 19 Nov 2005
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The Descent packshot
Six girls on a caving expedition find they are not alone in the dark.
Amazon link

Product Code: P917201001

Region: 2

Ratio: 2.35 Anamorphic Wide Screen

Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1

Extras: Commentary by director and cast. commentary by director and production crew; Making Of featurette (45mins); extended scenes; out-takes; scene and storyboard comparisons; stills galleries; cast and crew biographies; trailer

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