The Descent: Unrated (Blu-ray)

January 28, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Sarah (Shauna MacDonald) has always been an adrenaline junkie, she and her friends have taken on numerous extreme sports and challenges. But after a recent one, a car accident claimed the life of her husband and daughter, her world changed and even her friends didn’t know what to expect. One year later however, she and her friends regroup to tackle a new challenge, the depths of a perilous cave. The expedition isn’t a dangerous one though, a fact that bothers Juno (Natalie Mendoza), who thinks a more advanced cave would be more fun. As the leader of the group, Juno takes her friends down into the cave, but unknown to the others, this isn’t the cave they had planned on. In fact, the cave is quite treacherous and it becomes apparent that no clear path back out is to be found and the entrance isn’t an option. As time passes, the friends begin to turn on each other with sharp comments and accusations, but they soon learn they’re not alone in the cave. What lurks in the darkness and if they can survive whatever that is, can any of the friends find a way back out?

As a horror fan, the last few years have been rough, thanks to a tidal wave of lackluster remakes and bloodless teen thrillers. But here we have one of the rare exceptions, a horror movie that has some unique texture and doesn’t hold back the red stuff, plus it is also just a damn good movie. The Descent is just a lot of fun to boot, a well crafted horror movie that has it all, a scary situation that takes place in a dark, eerie, and scary place. I can imagine many viewers being on edge just because of the cramped quarters of the cave, let alone the other elements. So there is a genuine sense of real fear, even the characters, who thrive on extreme experiences, are intimidated by the cave’s atmosphere. But there is much more to be afraid of than the cave itself and when that arises, the movie only ramps up the tension and scares. As far as the characters, you have a varied assortment and of course, you’ll be wishing some are taken out before others. The performances are solid across the board, not award level, but good enough to do the material justice, which is fine. The gore isn’t over the top, but when the violence kicks in, the blood flows and you’ll see some cool kills. The Descent is just an awesome horror movie and a must own for even casual horror addicts. Lions Gate’s Blu-ray edition is one of the format’s best overall titles to date, so it is well worth a purchase.

Video: How does it look?

The Descent is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is not a flawless visual presentation, but it comes close and the movie looks incredible here. As the bulk of the movie transpires within a cave, the visuals are bathed in darkness. This could be a concern, but the transfer handles it all with ease, from the shadows to pitch black. At times, the visuals do go totally dark, but that is intentional and whenever you’re supposed to see something, you will. That is very impressive, as the needed detail comes through even in the darkest of sequences. When possible, the detail level is quite high and more than up to Blu-ray standards. The movie also has scenes outside of the cave of course, which look good and show excellent depth. All in all, a terrific visual treatment that fans should love.

Audio: How does it sound?

Not to be outdone, the audio checks in with a dynamic uncompressed PCM soundtrack, with 6.1 channels of wonder. This is a movie set in an eerie, claustrophobic environment and the soundtrack enhances that. All the little nuances of the cave world come across here, from small drips of water to distant echoes. When the tensions really cranks up, the soundtrack reflects that also, which only serves to make the atmosphere even more intense. The audio isn’t of the powerhouse variety, but it shows power at times and has a natural sound, which is great news. The dialogue is solid, but doesn’t always have a natural, “live” sound. This isn’t a huge deal, but it is noticeable at times. This disc also includes a Dolby Digital 5.1 EX option, as well as subtitles in English and Spanish.

Supplements: What are the extras?

A cool Blu-ray exclusive is The Underground Experience, which offers viewers the chance to sample behind the scenes elements while never leaving the film itself. In small pop up windows you’ll see interviews and behind the scenes footage, while audio comments also come in from time to time. If you want a more exciting way to view some of the bonus materials, this is it and this feature is well designed and executed. There is also a substantial behind the scenes featurette, with over forty minutes of insightful interviews and footage from the shoot. Some information is repeated from The Underground Experience, but there’s still ample new insights to be found. As if that isn’t enough, how about not one, but two audio commentary tracks? You’ll hear from the director, as well as several cast members as they discuss the production. I found both tracks to be passable, but not as insightful as I had hoped. A brief interview with the director has his thoughts on the two endings, why each was created and the process behind the decisions made. This disc also includes some deleted scenes, an outtakes reel, and storyboard to film comparisons.

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