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HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Descent

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#1 of 19 OFFLINE   Michael Osadciw

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Posted January 16 2007 - 03:31 PM



Blu-ray Disc REVIEW



http://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo/9/95/ronsreviews_covers_77345.jpg">
THE DESCENT
UNRATED


Studio: Lionsgate
Distributor: Maple Pictures
Film Year: 2005
Film Length:
  • Rated: 1h38m35s
  • Unrated: 1h39m50s
    Genre: Horror

  • 2.35:1 Theatrical Ratio

    Resolution: 1080p
    Video Codec: AVC MPEG-4
    Disc Size: 50GB
    Colour/B&W: Colour

    Audio:
  • UNCOMPRESSED 7.1 PCM SURROUND
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX Surround

    Subtitles: English, Spanish
    Film Rating: R

    Posted Image Posted Image





  • Release Date: AVAILABLE NOW

    Film Rating: Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image / Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image
    Scare Factor: Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image / Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image

    Starring: Shauna Macdonald (Sarah), Natalie Mendoza (Juno), Alex Reid (Beth), Saskia Mulder (Rebecca), MyAnna Buring (Sam), Nora-Jane Noone (Holly)

    Written by: Neil Marshall
    Directed by: Neil Marshall



    Scream your last breath.


    It’s a bit relieving to know the horror film genre isn’t dying. There have been too many films hitting theaters and going direct-to-DVD trying to convince us they are scary when they are a far scream from it. We know that horrors get the shaft by studios because they appeal to smaller audiences, but for gut’s sake, give us a decent story to talk about!!

    It appears my nightmares have come true. The scares I’ve been dreaming for have arrived. The Descent rips through the head with some frightening moments I’ll be talking about – and be recommending to my friends just to watch them have heart attacks. That’s half the fun of knowing when the scary part is coming!

    If you don’t like claustrophobia then The Descent probably isn’t for you…but…since this is a horror film, anything goes. In this story, a group of six adventurous girls go repelling into a cave for exploration. They are astonished with what they see deep in the ground and venture in further until they find themselves with no way out. Not only did they believe they were the first to discover this cave, they also find they are not alone. It seems life has adapted underground and they are hunted by something never seen by anyone before – and who lived to tell it!

    The Descent is gripping from beginning to end and is bound to make many viewers tense. The writing is good; we get to know and understand some of the characters and feel pity too. The pace of the film is perfect and it never slows to a crawl – unless you are a creepy crawler looking for some guts. In all there are great scares, good gore, and scenes that will stay with you for some time. That’s impressionable.

    This disc includes both rated and unrated versions of the film; the unrated has the U.K. ending preferred by the director.

    Note: Ensure your Blu-ray player is updated with the latest firmware or this title may not play properly.


    Posted ImageVIDEO QUALITY: 4.5/5 Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image

    I found The Descent to be exceptionally sharp. This 2.35:1 image delivers the grainy look of film in the outdoor scenes. There are two environments in this film: forest and underground caves. The outdoor scenes are dimmer than I’d expect even though they are grey skies above in the daylight. It did sort of remind me of summer in northern British Columbia; at Muncho Lake, just south of Liard River, those 10.30pm skies grey were with dim sunlight…it’s bright out but it’s not…messes up the eyes too for a southern city dweller like myself. Anyway, that’s the kind of look this film gives. My eyes were asking for a bit more light in those day scenes.

    …and then there is the darkness. The rest of the film plays with our fears in tight, inescapable cave holes in the underground. There is no light but the light from flares and neon and helmet torches. Black level is exceptional in these scenes. It’s deep and I never felt like I was missing out even in the darkest moments when I could see almost nothing – I knew it was intentional. Colour in the dark scenes is not as prominent (an absence of light makes no colour), but when colour needs to be bold it is well saturated. Trees, trunks, and flora look are nicely rendered. Compression artefacts are absent and edge enhancement is nowhere to be found. The compression is AVC MPEG-4 and average bitrate is close to 30Mbps.


    Posted ImageAUDIO QUALITY: 4.5/5 Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image

    The Descent has an awesome soundtrack to ensure everyone gets the biggest creepiest feeling from the film. From subtle sounds of water dripping in the cave to the loud piercing sounds of unexpected situations, nothing seems to be spared. Sound effects spread out all over this 6.1 soundtrack. The music is incredibly dynamic as well. The score is well recorded and the instruments can come alive with a full-on assault.

    Bass is also a killer: it appears all six full range channels get a heavy dose of bass. Bass was coming out of every corner in my room from each of the channel-related subs. The LFE channel was even more powerful as it tried to knock me out of my chair…but that’s what a bass shaker is for and using one is highly recommended for this film. It makes the scares that more effective!

    This soundtrack falls short a full five star rating because of two weak parts in this recording. The first is dialogue integration – and it’s rather unsatisfactory, as it does not sound like it’s in the environment surrounding the actors. Dialogue in large caves would sound rather reflective – and there is very little of this. In fact, it sounds dampened.

    This Blu-ray disc has two soundtrack options. A 640kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 EX soundtrack is what I listed to, and it sounded great. But having experienced uncompressed 5.1 PCM for many of my reviews in the third quarter last year, I know that is the preferred option for superior sound. I will be re-equipped for it sometime this year, but for the moment I’m not able to report on it. What’s interesting though is what I can’t confirm. By pressing the “info” button on my PS3 while playing the movie in PCM, it lists the soundtrack as being having 7.1 channels with a fixed bitrate of 6.1Mbps. If this is the case I think it’s a first for any film on disc thus far. Is that extra channel a second discrete center rear channel or a height channel? That I’m not sure of, but if any of you are able to send the audio via HDMI to a 7.1 preamp, let us know what you see and hear.

    TACTILE FUN!! Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image / Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image
    TRANSDUCER ON/OFF?: ON

    Hell ya! Five stars! It was great!!


    Posted ImageSPECIAL FEATURES: 4/5 Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image

    For a Blu-ray disc, The Descent appears to come loaded with goodies. Not only do we get both cuts of the film (the unrated UK cut has a “darker” ending), but also load of extras to chew on.

    A feature most of you will be dying to check out is The Descent: An Underground Experience. When watching the film, the bottom right of the screen features a “Picture-in-Picture” window of full-motion commentary and behind the scenes footage. You view this as you watch the movie and the window is usually scene specific. The audio defaults to the PIP so you can’t view the PIP and listen to the film (but why would you want to anyway?) It’s a great feature and delivers excellent information not possible with DVD.

    The disc also comes loaded with two audio commentaries. Forgive me at this time; I haven’t had the opportunity to listen to them yet to hear whom the participants are. One commentary features the Director and Crew and the second has the Director and Cast.

    The next batch of features is interesting in content but also with how they displayed on my screen. The content is a mixture of HD and SD, but for some reason I couldn’t get any of it to fit properly on the screen. It’s all MPEG-2 decoded (FYI) but the image was pushed up to the top half of the screen leaving the bottom half completely blank…strange…not sure why this is happening but will recheck my settings soon enough.

    As far as content goes, the first featurette is DescENDING – Interview with Writer/Director Neil Marshall (7.13). The director talks in-depth about the two endings of the film and why they were chosen, including his influences from writing to screening the film.

    The Descent: Beneath The Scenes (41.19) is even more in-depth about the making of the movie featuring several cast and crewmembers. If the in-movie experience wasn’t enough for you, this feature is your dessert.

    Nine deleted and extended scenes (9.56) are available in HD as well as DD 5.1 Surround. Just so you know where the scene goes in the sequence of things, each scene begins with a part in the film.

    On this disc you’ll also find Caving: An HD Experience (8.38). High def cameras are taken in tight caves so you can experience the outdoor sport yourself. There are also storyboard to scene comparisons (10.26), outtakes (5.13) (the music in background is too loud and I couldn’t hear all of the funny moments), as well as cast and crew biographies, a still gallery, a Lionsgate BD promo ad and BD credits.


    IN THE END...

    I recommend this film for fright seekers. It has excellent A/V quality, awesome special features, and it’s a very enjoyable horror. For these reasons I must recommend The Descent.

    Michael Osadciw
    January 16, 2007.


    Warner Bros. Blu-ray Reviewer
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    #2 of 19 OFFLINE   Yumbo

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    Posted January 16 2007 - 03:46 PM

    Was good on DVD, but I just couldn't stand females whinging. DIE already! Some Rambo-like turnarounds made it passable, otherwise laughable. Bandidas was more palatable IMO.

    #3 of 19 OFFLINE   Michael Osadciw

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    Posted January 16 2007 - 03:55 PM

    I didn't find them whiney at all...I thought they were pretty good...

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    #4 of 19 OFFLINE   Vincent_P

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    Posted January 16 2007 - 04:10 PM

    I'm with Michael. I'd like to know how some of the folks calling the girls "whiney" might react in the same situation.

    THE DESCENT is a great film, the best horror film I've seen in years. I wish I had a Blu-ray player right now...

    Vincent

    #5 of 19 OFFLINE   Tim Glover

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    Posted January 16 2007 - 05:52 PM

    Nice review Michael. I don't have Blu-Ray but did rent the SD-DVD. It looked great and sounded great too. I'm sure the BD blows it away. Anyway, nice job. Posted Image

    #6 of 19 OFFLINE   AlexBC

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    Posted January 17 2007 - 03:54 AM

    Michael,

    The Descent's LPCM track has 6.1 discrete channels, tough it's enconded as a 7.1 track, the duplicate surround back is necessary to work properly in case you have 2 surround back speakers (using analog outs, in case HDMI is used it dependes on the receiver).

    Crank (also a Lionsgate release) features this same setup.


    The first and only (so far) real 7.1 LPCM track (or in any format for that matter) available for home entertainment is the Buena Vista Japan exclusive BD of 'Innocense: Ghost In The Shell 2'. It also features the highest bitrate among all the HD releases so far (38,8 mbps ABR for video alone).
    Support the use of seamless branching on Sony BDs to always present the original theatrical cut along with the extended/alternate versions

    http://www.avsforum.....3#post10265263

    #7 of 19 OFFLINE   gandolf01933

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    Posted January 17 2007 - 05:26 AM

    Scary as hell

    #8 of 19 OFFLINE   Michael Osadciw

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    Posted January 17 2007 - 10:14 AM

    Thanks for the posts, guys!

    Alex, thanks for the info re: PCM. I was curious to know if the two back channels were encoded with the same information or not...

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    #9 of 19 OFFLINE   VicQ

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    Posted January 17 2007 - 02:24 PM

    Nice review. I rented this on blu ray and the picture was sharp as tack! I have a question for any of you. Can someone let me know what happens on the alternate ending? I returned it withoug checking it our first...

    #10 of 19 OFFLINE   Dave_P.

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    Posted January 18 2007 - 02:12 AM

    RE: the alternate ending:

    The alternate ending adds no extra footage, but just ends with the Juno-in-the-jeep shock shot and goes right to the credits. It cuts out the birthday cake scene with the daughter in the unrated cut. This could imply that Sarah may have snapped and ended up killing everyone down there.


    #11 of 19 OFFLINE   VicQ

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    Posted January 18 2007 - 01:10 PM

    okay, thanks. I didn't miss much then Posted Image

    #12 of 19 OFFLINE   RAF

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    Posted January 19 2007 - 08:36 AM

    Michael,

    I viewed this title last night on my PS3 via a 1080p input monitor using HDMI for video and audio. I found the picture to be quite "grainy" (if that's the correct word for this since it looked a lot like what is sometimes referred to as "mosquito noise"). Not having listened to the extras yet, was that something that the director was doing to achieve a certain look? The picture was sharp enough but I couldn't get past the (to me) excessive graininess. I have about 50 HD titles in my collection (both HD and BR) and have not experienced this level of grain on any other title that I've viewed so I can't really attribute this to any fault of the player(s).

    Comments?
    RAF
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    #13 of 19 OFFLINE   Michael Osadciw

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    Posted January 19 2007 - 03:09 PM

    Hi Robert

    Running similar gear here...still at 720p display at the moment (with HDMI/PS3)...I noticed the grain in the outdoor scenes...not as much in the caves...I can't call it mosquito noise because it doesn't seem compression-related...the impression I had was it was entirely film related and felt part of the film's photography...so much to the degree that I just couldn't subtract point values from it for that reason alone. The grain in The Descent leaves a much more positive impression than a title like Courage Under Fire where the artefacts/grain/grittiness was not just film based, but mostly because (in my opinion) of the outdated film-to-tape transfer. It made any "native grain" look 100% unnatural.

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    #14 of 19 OFFLINE   Chris Dugger

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    Posted January 20 2007 - 05:44 AM

    Here with the Sony BDP-S1 upgraded to the newest firmware and I still can't get this disc to perform properly....

    Anyone else with this issue?

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    #15 of 19 OFFLINE   Dave H

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    Posted January 21 2007 - 05:18 AM

    I saw this movie in the theater when it came out and it did exhibit somewhat of a grainy look. I'll be checking this out on BD soon.

    #16 of 19 OFFLINE   RAF

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    Posted January 21 2007 - 12:36 PM

    I was willing to live with the grain on this film (as Michael said, it was more noticeable during the outdoor scenes rather than those shot in the cave) because it looked like something that the director might have done purposely to simulate a look like The Blair Witch Project or Deliverance or similar outdoors in the woods scenarios. In any event I have about 20 BR titles and this is the only one that has exhibited this graininess so that why I thought it might not be a flaw. Not having watched the extras (too many discs, not enough time) I'm not aware if anyone in a commentary track mentions the cinematography aspects.
    RAF
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    #17 of 19 OFFLINE   Joey^T

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    Posted January 22 2007 - 01:52 AM

    I just watched this movie on my PS3 last night and on 5 occasions, the movie just paused for about 7-10 seconds and then just started up again. Pressing the buttons on the bluetooth remote did not help any. Did anyone else experience this? Maybe I just have a bad copy of the movie. Other BD movies have played fine.

    #18 of 19 OFFLINE   David_Giles

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    Posted January 22 2007 - 09:02 AM

    Do you have the latest updates on your PS3? I had no problems with it....perhaps because i have the updates.

    #19 of 19 OFFLINE   Steven Burke

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    Posted January 30 2007 - 04:06 AM

    The Japanese Blu-ray of Ghost in the Shell 2 : Innocence has 7.1 PCM on it.
    Posted Image

    Japanese - http://www.neowing.c...l?KEY=VWBS-1013
    English - http://www.cdjapan.c...l?KEY=VWBS-1013