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24 November, 2007

DVD Review: THE DESCENT

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Title: THE DESCENT

Year of Release—Film: 2005

Year of Release—DVD: 2006

DVD Label: Lion’s Gate Home Entertainment



THE MOVIE

Neil Marshall’s follow up to DOG SOLDIERS, one of the best Horror Films of this decade, is THE DESCENT, possibly the best-reviewed Horror Film of 2005, and one about which fans seemed to agree with the reviewers. It did well at the box office, as well as in DVD release, and led off a mini-wave of subterranean Horror.

Marshall, who definitely knows how to please Horror fans, doesn’t stray too far from the formula that worked so well in DOG SOLDIERS… a small, close-knit group, in an unfamiliar environment, confined, cut-off, and disoriented, doing battle against creatures who view them simply as their next meal.

The difference here is that where the British soldiers in his previous film grew even tighter as a unit through their struggle, the six women in THE DESCENT begin to fracture apart thanks to the arrogance and errors of their nominal leader. The six unknowns in the cast do a credible job with the material, though I think that the addition of an experienced hand would’ve improved the level of the performances greatly, much as Sean Pertwee elevated the performances in DOG SOLDIERS.

There’s very little I can say about the movie itself for fear of ruining it for those yet to see it. The first half, maybe the first two-thirds, is slow-moving and, quite frankly, boring… unless spelunking videos are your thing. But, as with DOG SOLDIERS, once the action starts there’s hardly a let up until the end. Not all of it makes sense, but there’s no time to consider the plot holes in detail.

Marshall, as he did with DS, demonstrates a skillful use of the darkness inherent in the location, never revealing too much of his creatures to the light. I will say that the creature design, while hardly original, is very effective, and the make-up and special effects are as well done as they were on his previous film.



THE DISC

Lion’s Gate makes a habit of pleasing genre fans, and it starts with a sharp, attractive package design. When you have dozens of new DVD’s hitting the shelves every Tuesday, the cover of your movie has to reach out and grab the uninformed consumers, make them want your product. For fans of Horror Films, you can’t go wrong with girls, and you can’t go wrong with gore. Combine the two in a properly dramatic scene, you’ve got a winner. The disc inside is as well-designed, with several choices for audio and subtitles, and excellent picture and sound quality.



THE SPECIAL FEATURES

One thing that Lion’s Gate has realized is that serious movie fans like extras on their DVD’s. We want deleted scenes, and alternate endings, and behind-the-scenes documentaries. We want the movie, yes… but for us the movie is just the crust, sauce, and mozzarella cheese. The special features are the pepperoni and green peppers, and Lion’s Gate Home Entertainment serves their discs fully loaded.

There are several Deleted / Alternate scenes presented, none of which would have improved the final product and were worthy of being cut; a “gag” reel that is really quite entertaining; an interesting and informative Making-Of featurette; an interview with Marshall; and multiple commentaries.





IN CONCLUSION

While DESCENT isn’t the equal of his previous film, Neil Marshall does demonstrate with it that he’s no one-hit wonder. He’s a talented director, one that understands the genre and its fans, and that should translate into a great career. This may not be a great movie, and it certainly falls short of its hype, but it’s still a very entertaining, enjoyable Horror Film, especially for Gorehounds. With a $19.95 list price, it’s affordable enough to belong in any good Horror collection, though those unused to gore might want to work up to it. It can be found even cheaper, but it does belong on your buy list.


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