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The Descent: Original Unrated Cut

Lions Gate
Movie A
Special Features A-
DVD Geek Factor 9 (out of 10)

Some folks say this story of some girls going cave diving--and running into trouble in the form of cave creatures--isn't scary. They're just trying to be all cool and tough on you. They were just as scared as you, probably even more frightened. They have issues that need to be dealt with.

Admittedly, this one plays a little better in a movie theater, because it's a dark movie, and it's sometimes hard to see things clearly on a small screen. If you received a 50-inch screen for Christmas, I reckon you won't have some of the problems I had on my 28-inch screen. There's just something cool about watching a film about caves in a cavernous theater. If you missed this during its theatrical run, you missed out on a fun experience.

Even with the poor visibility, I'm giving the film my highest grade. It's an instant classic, one of the best horror films in recent years. No spelunking for me, no sir-ee.

Special Features: This is a very good disc, with deleted and extended scenes, outtakes, two commentaries (one with director Neil Marshall, another with the director and his cast) and plenty more. There's an interview with the director about the alternate ending that ran with the film's U.S. release. The original ending was bleaker and made much more sense. There's also a meaty documentary on behind-the-scenes stuff.


Sheitan

Tartan Home Video
Movie B
Special Features B-
DVD Geek Factor 6 (out of 10)

After you've watched The Descent, try swallowing this one. Vincent Cassel plays a wide-eyed, grinning "caretaker" of a country house in France where the treatment of animals is bizarre, and everybody seems just a little too jolly.

A crew of clubbers meet up with a mysterious girl (Roxane Mesquida) who invites them back to the home on Christmas Eve. (The holiday doesn't play prominently in the film, so don't fear a Black Christmas retread.) When they get there, crazy caretaker Cassel drops a couple of racist remarks and smiles a bit too much, but generally seems OK for a dinner visit. What they don't know is that he is some sort of devil worshipper who has plans for some of their body parts.

The film is a strange blend of humor and drama at first, but then it begins to get mighty strange (right around the time a girl attempts to jerk off a dog). The last half-hour or so is pure horror. It makes you squirm and freaks you out with tension rather than gore, something Hollywood horror meisters rely a bit too much on.

The lesson to be learned here is that some of the best horror of recent years is coming from foreign soil. (The Descent hails from jolly old England; this one is from France.) The movie is rather plotless and a little too yucky for my taste during one particular sex scene, but I was genuinely creeped out while watching it. That's more than I can say for the latest Texas Chainsaw film.

The film features a cameo by Cassel's wife, Monica Bellucci. (Her cameo is horribly disgusting.) The last time I saw these two in a movie was Irreversible, the only theater experience I've ever had where a patron was so disturbed by the film that he ran out of the theater to vomit in a trashcan. Cassel and Bellucci are the family film duo of the century!

Special Features: There's only one special feature, but it's a good one: Cassel describes the circumstances that got him involved in the film; they display his love for independent, absolutely insane cinema.


World Trade Center: 2-Disc Commemorative Edition

Paramount Home Video
Movie C+
Special Features A
DVD Geek Factor 5.75 (out of 10)

I didn't like this movie all that much. I thought it had a Hallmark Channel feel to it, with a big budget being the only real difference. Consequently, the film plays better on the TV screen, yet it still doesn't pack enough of a punch for me to recommend it.

No doubt, the story of the two firemen at the core of this picture is beyond incredible. But director Oliver Stone's staging of their ordeal--being trapped in the rubble of the collapsed Twin Towers--just doesn't work as a film. It would work as a documentary, with the firefighters simply retelling the story, but the visual of Nicolas Cage covered in soot and occasionally screaming just isn't captivating.

The buildup to the moment where the men are trapped is remarkably well-filmed. (The collapse of the World Trade Center concourse is one of the more harrowing sequences put to film last year.) That's the best that can be said about this film. United 93 is a far better movie on the subject of Sept. 11.

Special Features: In a word, excellent. Firefighter and real-life survivor Will Jimeno sits down with his rescuers to examine the film. There are plenty of documentaries and an Oliver Stone commentary. While I wasn't too impressed with the movie, Stone is an engaging speaker.

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