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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Craft (Blu-ray)
The Craft (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory // R // March 12, 2019 // Region A
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Michael Zupan | posted March 11, 2019 | E-mail the Author
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This wasn't my first time watching The Craft, but it may as well have been. Outside of its poster art and that ‘light as a feather, stiff as a board' scene, I couldn't recall anything about its characterization or plot. In hindsight, I should have recognized that as a red flag, but I instead shrugged my forgetfulness off as what inevitably happens with the passage of time. But this film debuted in the late 90's, sharing its moment in cinema with the likes of Scream, Cruel Intentions, and Clueless, which I remember just fine. So what was it about this one that managed to escape me completely? Scream Factory's latest release offered me the perfect opportunity to find out.

Sarah Bailey just moved to Los Angeles and she's having a rough time transitioning to her new school. A lot of people are superficial or rude, and one guy pretends to like Sarah so he can shamelessly besmirch her reputation just to boost his own. The only ones who give her the time of day are Bonnie, Rochelle, and Nancy, outcasts in goth garb who are rumored to be witches. The popular opinion of their classmates isn't far off, as they've wanted to create an all-powerful coven in their spare time. However, they need a fourth member to progress, and after seeing the new girl exhibit powers of her own, the ‘Bitches of Eastwick' can finally put things into motion.

At first, they put their magic through seemingly innocent trials. Sarah just wants that one jerk of a guy to like her, Rochelle wants a bully to get a taste of her own medicine, Bonnie wants burn scars from an old auto accident to vanish, and Nancy wants her abusive stepfather out of the picture. Their spells work and life improves for them in the short term, but they're quickly reminded that everything comes back around threefold. But the girls aren't about wanting a good thing to go to waste, so they pay little heed to this warning and are met with predictable results. Bonnie's outer beauty turns her into a complete narcissist, Sarah's love spell takes a frightening turn, Rochelle's revenge goes further than she had ever imagined, and Nancy lusts for more dark power than she, let alone any other witch in their right mind, should feel comfortable wielding. With their imperfect, yet comparatively meek reality swirling down the drain, the girls begin to turn on one another.

The Craft isn't a bad film, but I spent most of its runtime wishing it would take things above a certain threshold of entertainment, but it just never got there for me.

I couldn't remember the characterization or plot over the last twenty years or so because, well, it's mostly forgettable. Save for one character, everyone starts at relative normalcy, begins their descent to a place where they should learn something about themselves and catch an upswing… but that rebound never comes. Secondary characters fare much worse, as their scripted presence is always penned at the bare minimum. I understand they're meant to push the coven's buttons so the magic that's inevitably used against them can be justified, but a little depth could have gone a long way. Instead, they're given one beat and never get a second. I'm a horror fan and perfectly fine with disposable characters, but it's still a turnoff when such blatantly little effort is put into them.

If I were forced to critique this film with only a few words, I'd say, "It's 101 minutes of skating by with just enough." There's just enough story to propel things. There's just enough character interaction to keep things moving. The director's style and use of special effects keep it just entertaining enough.

That means The Craft is fine on a rainy evening when you don't have anything to do, but even then it's a hard sell. The four lead actresses practically carry the film, but the rest of the package is underwhelming enough that when tasked with choosing something random to watch when you're indecisive… well, basically, you can always do better. I know this movie has gained a bit of a cult following over the years, and I guess it isn't hard to see why, but with a premise that follows a high school coven in LA and what happens when absolute power corrupts its members, this by and large feels like a missed opportunity. Hollywood apparently wants to do a remake, and that usually spells doom and gloom for projects because they always have so much to live up to, but in this case, I'm not so sure. I think a talented screenwriter and director could easily surpass the original, but only time will tell.


Video


Scream Factory are known for breathing new life into catalog titles by whipping up new transfers, but judging by how The Craft looks on Blu-ray (and I don't have the old disc to use for comparison), I'd say they were at the whim of whatever Sony sent them.

I say this because some time ago when a different company released 1990's Night of the Living Dead on Blu-ray, fans were not happy. Everything was darker and blanketed in a heavy blue tint, making the early daytime shots look like night. Believing this had to be some sort of error, fans wrote the company and was shocked to learn that hideous transfer was provided by the studio, which much like The Craft, had been Sony. Apparently, when Sony farms catalog titles out to smaller labels, that's part of the deal… you have to use their transfer.

The Craft isn't going to raise any controversy in that regard, but this is an aged transfer and it shows. Now don't get me wrong, Sony are pretty much the best in the game when it comes to preserving a detailed, filmic look to their catalog, but technology has changed over time and so has the standards. What may have passed for ‘good' in 2009 just doesn't hold up today.

What's here isn't offensively bad, but boy, does it creak and groan. Grain has a tendency to look noisy and occasionally even blocky. The image is soft, fine detail is hard to come by, and skin tones often appear on the warm side. The transfer's saving grace is that its presentation is consistent throughout, so there aren't any jarring changes from one scene to the next.

This is problematic not just because it doesn't look great, but because it doesn't offer people much incentive to upgrade if they already own the 2009 Blu-ray. If you double dip on certain films solely to get better video quality, then you might want to sit this one out.


Audio


The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is, for my money, really good but falls short of being great. Dialogue is always clean and well prioritized, but that doesn't come as much of a surprise. What I did find appreciable was the use of surrounds. There's a lot of environmental ambience woven around the listener, but during the film's quieter moments, they never stand out. Some people count that as a negative - I think many of us have that one friend who comes over and wonders why the surround speakers aren't always blasting, as if there's something wrong with your setup - but that's how environmental sounds should work. They should blend in overall, not stick out. That stuff is supposed to complement the mix, not take it over. The Craft does feature a number of sequences where each speaker comes alive with loud, all enveloping sound effects though, and that, too, is a highlight. The only thing that left me wanting was the lower frequency stuff. You'll get some low end, sure, but it's pretty tame compared to what certain events in the film call for.


Extras


There's a decent, but underwhelming package of supplements that accompany this release. Co-Writer/Director Andrew Fleming isn't one of the livelier personalities I've listened to on a commentary, but his talking points encompass virtually every aspect of the film's production, so fans are sure to appreciate it.

Material from the previous Blu-ray has been included, such as ‘Conjuring The Craft,' which comes off as a twenty five minute promo piece, complete with how ideas were culminated for the script, casting, special effects, and more. ‘The Making of The Craft' is only six minutes long and is a much breezier promo piece with cast and crew interviews. There's also six-and-a-half minutes of deleted scenes, which are interesting in-and-of themselves, but wouldn't have served the film's otherwise fast pace too well.

But that stuff is all old hat for anyone who's owned the previous Sony Blu-ray.

With what amounts to the same audio and video presentation as before, the real draw of this disc should be the four brand spankin' new featurettes: Directing The Craft, Producing The Craft, Writing The Craft, and Effecting The Craft. These culminate into about fifty minutes of new HD material for fans to digest, and it's quite good. We get in-depth stories and details from director Andrew Fleming, producer Douglas Wick, screenwriter Peter Filardi, and makeup effects supervisor Tony Gardner. Anyone who appreciates this movie would be doing themselves a disservice by not watching these, but their existence does bring up a pretty obvious question: Where are the leading ladies? Why haven't they been included on any of the new featurettes? I'm sure Scream Factory had tried to make it happen, but considering some of the cast appear at conventions and have even been together for, at the very least, a photo-op reunion, their lack of participation here is strange. Otherwise, what we have here is fine, but it's still a bit weak compared to other Scream Factory offerings.


Overall


The Craft isn't bad, but I don't understand the love for it either. When taking its themes at face value, it's telling people to be careful what they wish for, and what goes around, comes around. That's all well and good, but vapid plot and characterization fail to make these aspects of the film resonate. Some people appreciate it for highlighting the weird kids ‘for once,' even though outcasts are prominently featured in cinema on a regular basis. There's also some conversation about this story being about woman empowerment, but considering the coven turns into a hot mess with little in the way of redeemable qualities, that too serves as a head scratcher. Ultimately, as long as you're willing to turn your brain off, you can probably enjoy The Craft for what it is, but that's not saying much.

As far as this home video release is concerned, there are some questionable omissions… some seemingly due to contractual obligations and others due to… well, who knows. It would have been great to see this ten year transfer get a facelift, and getting the four main cast members (or at least a couple of them) for some supplemental recordings should have been a no-brainer. The additional fifty minutes in extras are a welcome addition, don't get me wrong, but people have come to expect more from Scream Factory all around, myself included. Rent It.

-About the Author- Michael Zupan is primarily a film guy, but has a variety of places where you can enjoy his work otherwise. Check Bytesizeimpressions.com for video game op-ed pieces and podcasts, and be sure to check out the sister site, Byte-Size Cinema, linked up top. This writer also contributes significantly to in-print magazines such as Minecraft Explorer and Fortnite Explorer!

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