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review added: 10/2/00



The Craft
Special Edition - 1996 (2000) - Columbia TriStar

review by Dan Kelly of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

The Craft: Special Edition Film Rating: B-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/B+/A-

Specs and Features

101 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 51:30, at the start of chapter 15), Amaray keep case packaging, making-of featurette Conjuring The Craft, original featurette, commentary by director/co-writer Andrew Fleming, 3 deleted scenes (with optional director commentary), isolated music score, theatrical trailers ( for The Craft, I Know What You Did Last Summer, John Carpenter’s Vampires and Bram Stoker’s Dracula), talent files, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 and 2.0), French, Spanish, and Portuguese (DD 2.0), subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean and Thai, Closed Captioned

Sarah (Robin Tunney) is the new girl in town. She’s a new student at St. Benedict’s Catholic school, and immediately feels out of place at school. She quickly falls in with three other girls who also don’t fit in with the rest of the school. Nancy (Fairuza Balk) looks like the girl high schoolers would consider a witch - she dresses head to toe in black, has dark lipstick and generally does her best to look frightening. Bonnie (Neve Campbell) is quiet, keeps to herself and feels a lot of shame because of burn scars that cover a large part of her body. Rochelle (Rachel True) is often singled-out for ridicule because she is the only black student at school.

Together the four form a coven of witches and use their newfound powers for what any teenaged girl would - to get boys, seek revenge on popular girls and to look pretty. Soon thereafter, their powers start to get the best of them and their coven falls apart. Up until the very end of the film, the filmmakers show a lot of restraint with the effects shots, and the movie’s all the better for it. However, as the story draws to a close, director/co-writer Andrew Fleming goes too far over the top with the storyline and special effects. What could be a tidy story goes on a bit too long and becomes somewhat convoluted. By the time the credits starts rolling, it feels like the movie should have ended about fifteen minutes ago.

What I like about the movie is how it takes seriously the issues that effect everyday teenagers while still having fun with them. Even as adults, who wouldn’t want to get back at their high school tormentors? These parts of the film are really cool and lots of fun, but the novelty soon wears off. Each of the four actresses is very good at embodying their characters and brings a large amount of credibility to their roles. The problem here is that this can only carry a movie so far. Had the writers taken just a little more time to add some depth and a little more targeted action to the story, it could have been an even better film.

As is typical with Columbia releases, The Craft is presented in its original widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1, with a solid anamorphic treatment. Color reproduction is right on, with some very vivid, textured reds and greens. The film has a slightly golden/amber look to it, and this comes across cleanly and without major flaws throughout the transfer. Much of the film is lit dimly, and shadow detailing and black levels are rich and vibrant without coming across as intrusively dark. Earlier in the film, a few scenes seem to lack fine picture detail and, as a result, looking soft on occasion. Aside from this, the only complaint with the video is some unnecessary edge enhancement that produces a slight haloing in a handful of passages in the film. But overall, this picture is a very nice one.

On the audio side, we also get a nice, though somewhat subdued, Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that makes good use of the entire sound field. Parts of The Craft are very loud and aggressive, and when they are, you can certainly feel it in this mix for DVD. As the movie progresses, so does the intensity of the sound. Your subwoofer will get a workout near the end of the movie, as Fairuza Balk and Robin Tunney battle it out. There are some fine separation effects in the front end of the sound field, with the surrounds used primarily for the music track and occasional sound effects. The 5.1 mix has a nice balance of dialogue, effects and music. Each is audible and clear without any noticeable drawbacks. This is definitely a very good sound mix that holds its ground.

Like the more recent version of Stand By Me, Columbia has also taken the time here to do an extras-laden reissue of one of their featureless early discs. In other words, chuck your old edition of The Craft in the trash bin. This new edition has some very good behind-the-scenes material. The original featurette is a glossy short used primarily as a promotional piece for the film. Conjuring The Craft, the new documentary, goes more in depth into the process of making the film. The director and stars (with the exception of the oh, so busy Neve Campbell) sit down to reflect on their experiences making the film and trying to remain truthful about the nature of Wicca and other forms of witchcraft. The documentary (along with the director’s commentary) turns out to be pretty insightful. Fleming discusses the MPAA’s decision to give The Craft an R rating based solely on the presence of non-Christian beliefs. The Craft is by no means a graphic film, so it has always struck me funny that the film has an R rating. Fleming’s commentary is an informative one, but at times the pace lags, and he seems less than thrilled to be talking about the film.

It’s good to see the three deleted scenes, but they were wisely left out of the film. They weigh down and lengthen a film that is already a little too heady for its subject matter. One scene shows Fairuza’s character completely berating her friends, one by one. Fleming’s commentary tells us that the scene was removed because it lacked believability and distracted from the story. This distraction from the storyline applies to all the deleted scenes. But it's good to have them on DVD regardless. I also like the fact that Columbia is making isolated film scores and language/subtitle options a standard feature on many of their discs. A separate 5.1 mix is available for the score, along with talent files and a small assortment of theatrical trailers (for The Craft, Bram Stoker’s Dracula and a couple of other Columbia horror titles).

The new Special Edition of The Craft makes for an enjoyable DVD. It’s generally a fun movie done right on disc with a nice set of extra features that complement the film. Hopefully, Columbia will continue to revisit their earlier releases and supplement them with extras. If you have the original release, and you like the film, I’d say it’s worth replacing with this one. There’s simply more here for your money.

Dan Kelly
dankelly@thedigitalbits.com




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