• The Craft (Shout! Factory) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: March 12th, 2019.
    Director: Andrew Fleming
    Cast: Robin Tunney, Fairuza Balk, Neve Campbell, Rachel True, Skeet Ulrich, Christine Taylor
    Year: 1996
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    The Craft – Movie Review:

    Directed by Andrew Fleming (who got off to a pretty neat start with 1988’s Bad Dreams), Columbia Pictures’ 1990 production of The Craft tells the story of a teenaged girl named Sarah Bailey (Robin Tunney). She and her family have just relocated from San Francisco to Los Angeles and, obviously, she’s now the new kid at St. Benedict's Academy. Here she meets Bonnie (Neve Campbell), who is impressed with Sarah’s ability to make a pencil send on its end.

    Bonnie is also a witch. She tells her two witch friends, Nancy (Fairuza Balk) and Rochelle (Rachel True), about Sarah and they discuss bringing her into their group, essentially a coven. They start out by bringing her into a meeting, which gets the new recruit off to a rocky start, but soon enough things have smoothed over enough that she’s able to embrace and accept what the others tell her are her natural abilities to dabble in magick. In fact, it isn’t long before it’s obvious to the others that Sarah is considerably more powerful in this area than they are, although her presence seems to provide a boost to their own abilities. All is well for a while, they use their abilities initially to amuse themselves and exact harmless revenge on some students they don’t like, but soon enough its clear that there is a fracture amongst the four, and that is when things start to get dangerous.

    The Craft is perfectly entertaining cinematic junk food. At times it feels like it is reaching for something deeper, more cerebral, in how it deals with the powerful affecting the world around them, as if it were going to make some bold political metaphor, but it stops before that ever takes shape. Instead, we’re left with an enjoyable, if somewhat forgettable, supernatural horror picture with the requisite doses of angsty teenage rebellion thrown into the mix for good measure. Those hoping for something of a more mature slow burn take on the subject matter might be left wanting, but if you can turn off your brain for an hour and a half, this is at least amusing enough to be worth a watch.

    And a big part of why that is isn’t the direction or the effects (though they’re fine) but the cast. In the late nineties Neve Campbell was a pretty big star and she’s good here. She has solid screen presence and she’s fine in her part. Likewise, Robin Tunney isn’t bad either and neither is Rachel True. They all play the semi-catty teenaged characters well enough to make it work. The real start, however, is Fairuza Balk. Very few people do crazy as well as she does and she gets to exercise a little bit of that unique talent in this picture. Sure, she chews the scenery but she does it well and she’s a lot of fun to watch here.

    The Craft – Blu-ray Review:

    The Craft is presented on a 50GB disc from Shout! Factory who offer up the film in an AVC encoded 1.85.1 widescreen transfer is presented in 1080p high definition and it looks good but less than amazing. Although it’s been reported that this is the same transfer used for Sony’s 2009 Blu-ray release and not a new scan, the image is more than watchable even if it doesn’t some of Shout! Factory’s recent transfers taken from new 2k and 4k scans. Colors look okay but detail and depth aren’t really what they should be and sometimes things do tend to look a bit flat. Darker scenes can be a tad murky and occasionally grain looks a bit blocky and compressed, but the image is pristine in that there is no noticeable print damage at all. Not a great transfer, but better than DVD could provide. Take that as you will.

    The only audio option for the feature is an English language DTS-HD 5.1 Surround Sound track, but it’s a good one. There’s a lot of effective surround activity here, present throughout the movie, making good use of the front and rear channels in the mix. The score is spread out well as are the effects, while dialogue stays clean, clear and properly balanced. Optional subtitles are provided in English.

    This disc is pretty stacked. Andrew Fleming starts out the supplemental package with an interesting commentary track wherein he talks about how he came to direct the picture, working with the different actors and actresses involved in the shoot, his relationship with the studio, effects works, his thoughts on the script and more.

    From there, we dive into a host of brand new featurettes, the first of which is a fifteen-minute segment called Directing The Craft that interviews Fleming. While he inevitably repeats some of the information here that he offers up in the commentary, he also talks about what he was able to bring to the screenplay, researching Wiccan rites, some of the film’s original casting choices and more. Producing The Craft spends thirteen-minutes with Douglas Wick who talks about how he got his start in the business writing Working Girl before then developing the script for The Craft, which he also came to produce. From there he talks about collaborating with Fleming and what the different leads were able to bring to the movie. Writing The Craft is an eleven-minute piece with screenwriter Peter Filardi where he talks about how he got noticed after writing Flatliners, collaborating with Wick and Fleming and his own personal interest in some of what the characters in the feature explore. Effecting The Craft lets makeup effects supervisor Tony Gardner speak for eleven-minutes about the practical effects work that he was responsible for conjuring up (ha!) and some of the challenges that this entailed. He also mentions work he did for a deleted scene that, puzzlingly, isn’t included on this release. Maybe it doesn’t exist anymore.

    Shout! Factory has also carried over some archival piece from the old DVD release, beginning with a twenty-five-minute making of entitled Conjuring The Craft. This is made up of interviews with the principal cast and crew members, all of whom offer EPK style sound bites about the project, how they tried their utmost to treat the subject matter with respect, some strange happenings that occurred on set and more. The Making Of The Craft is a shorter six-minute EPK piece that is made up of vintage on-set interviews with the cast and crew.

    Also found on the disc are just under seven-minutes’ worth of deleted scenes that are available with optional commentary from Fleming, and the film’s original theatrical trailer. Menus and chapter selection are also included on the disc, which his packaged with some reversible cover sleeve art and, for the first pressing at least, a collectible slipcover. It’s a shame that there are no new interviews with the cast members here, but what Shout! Factory has provided is still pretty impressive.

    The Craft – The Final Word:

    Shout! Factory gives The Craft plenty of great new extras but recycles the older transfer, making this one a mixed bag. Hardcore fans of the film will likely want to grab this for the supplemental material but the movie should have looked better than it does here. The movie itself is not a great film by any stretch, but it has its moments.

    Click on the images below for full sized The Craft Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. cinemacide's Avatar
      cinemacide -
      My problem is the price. $29 for an old transfer just bugs me.
    1. moviegeek86's Avatar
      moviegeek86 -
      I like the movie but no way I'm paying nearly 30 bucks for an older transfer.