Reviewed by
Colin Jacobson

Title: The Craft: Special Edition (1996)
Studio Line: Columbia TriStar - Welcome to the witching hour.

Sarah has always been different. So as the newcomer at St. Benedict's Academy, she immediately falls in with the high school outsiders. But these girls won't settle for being a group of powerless misfits. They have discovered The Craft and they are going to use it.

Critics are spellbound, calling The Craft "slick, shrewd, touching, funny and most appropriately, downright mean." (Arthur Salm, San Diego Union-Tribune)

Director: Andrew Fleming
Cast: Fairuza Balk, Robin Tunney, Neve Campbell, Ranchel True, Christine Taylor, Skeet Ulrich
DVD: Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9; audio English DD 5.1 & Dolby Surround, Spanish, French & Portuguese Digital Stereo; subtitles English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai; closed-captioned; single sided - dual layered; 28 chapters; rated R; 101 min.; $29.95; street date 9/12/00.
Supplements: Director's Commentary; Isolated Music Score; 3 Deleted Scenes; Original Featurette; Theatrical Trailers; Talent Files; Exclusive Making-Of Featurette: "Conjuring The Craft".
Purchase: DVD | Music soundtrack - Various Artists

Picture/Sound/Extras: B+/A-/B

What a difference a wig makes. Before I saw her in 1999's End of Days, I'd never heard of Robin Tunney. In that film, she struck me as attractive but nothing special. Although her appearance in 2000's Supernova showed that she has a marvelous chest, I still didn't find Tunney's overall look to be much to my liking.

However, that isn't the case for my impression of Tunney in 1996's The Craft, in which she looks absolutely stunning from start to finish. Did Tunney just go to pot over the three years between The Craft and the more recent films? Nope, but those two showed her with short, boyish hair, whereas The Craft fits her with a nice, long red wig. Wow! The effect is stunning, as Tunney looks fantastically gorgeous and sexy at all times.

I don't offer this discussion of my hair preferences simply because I expect readers will find it fascinating (though I'm sure you will). Actually, it comes up largely because I just don't have a lot to say about The Craft; honestly, Tunney's appearance in the film was the most interesting aspect to me as I watched this mildly fun but unexceptional little romp.

The Craft follows the experiences of Sarah (Tunney), a teen new to town who encounters a group of oddball girls everyone says are witches. While the word on the playground isn't often right, this time it hits the nail on the head, as the girls - Nancy (Fairuza Balk), Bonnie (Neve Campbell), and Rochelle (Rachel True) - form an incomplete coven. They need a fourth to finish the circle - guess who fits the bill?

The result is a disjointed but fairly entertaining piece that partially examines the trials and tribulations experienced by teenage outsiders but adds one component: what if you could get back at your tormentors through supernatural means? The girls quickly discover the truth in the phrase "be careful what you ask for - you might get it" as their powers grow and more problems ensue.

The Craft stays pretty glib and superficial throughout most of the film. I thought at times it might delve into some of the deeper feelings experienced by the characters but it usually backed away from those issues and stuck to the basic flash of the events. The cast all provide pretty good performances, with the best coming from Balk. She presents a truly believable presence as a budding witch; the girl has a creepy look that makes her seem all-too-realistic in the role.

Other than that, however, I just come back to how hot Tunney looks. The Craft is one of those movies that's fun while it lasts but almost totally leaves your memory as soon as the credits stop. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn't make the result especially memorable.

The DVD:

The Craft appears in its original theatrical aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The picture doesn't look perfect, but it seems pretty satisfactory nonetheless.

Sharpness usually appears fairly crisp and accurate, but a few indoor scenes seem a little too soft; the murkiness isn't terribly problematic but it gave them image a hazy feel at times. Both moiré effects and jagged edges seemed virtually non-existent, and I noticed only mild artifacts from the anamorphic downconversion on my 4X3 TV. Print flaws also were not a concern, as I saw no examples of grain, scratches, hairs, dirt, speckles or other defects.

Colors appeared largely accurate and well-saturated, with pleasing hues that lacked any signs of bleeding or noise. Black levels were precise and deep, and shadow detail looked clear and appropriately opaque without any excessive heaviness. Overall, the image seemed well-defined.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Craft was even better. The soundfield seemed very broad and engulfing from start to finish. The forward spectrum offered quite a lot of ambient sound from the side speakers and blended it all nicely, with a well-integrated presentation. The surrounds also kicked in a lot of information as well and they provided very effective reinforcement for the front channels; the rears really added quite a punch to the proceedings.

Audio quality seemed strong as well. Dialogue generally sounded clear and natural, though some lines came across as slightly harsh and edgy; in any case, intelligibility was always good. Effects were clear and realistic and displayed no signs of distortion. The music was also dynamic and crisp and reproduced the songs well. Bass response seemed quite positive at appropriate times. Ultimately, The Craft provided an excellent auditory experience.

This special edition disc offers the second DVD release of The Craft, as it expands on a basic release that came out in . As such, we find a bunch of extras that didn't appear on the original, starting with an audio commentary from director/cowriter Andrew Fleming. I found this scene-specific track to provide a decent but unexceptional look at the film. Fleming provides some good details about the movie and gives us some useful information about techniques used, but like the picture itself, there's not a whole lot of depth. However, it's still a pretty good commentary that will be of interest to fans of the film.

Another audio feature provides Graeme Revell's score on an isolated track. The music is played in good old Dolby Digital 5.1 sound, and I didn't detect any interruptions in the score. It also plays all of the other songs heard in the movie, like Our Lady Piece's version of "Tomorrow Never Knows". As I 've often mentioned, I don't much care about movie music, but I like to find these isolated scores when they appear.

Two featurettes appear on the DVD. First up is "Conjuring The Craft", a newly-created 24 and a half minute program about the movie. The documentary combines new interviews with Tunney, True, Fleming, writer Peter Filardi and producer Douglas Wick with film clips, behind the scenes shots and some older sound bites from Campbell and Balk. It's a decent program that offers a nice look at the creation of the film. It covers some of the same territory discussed in Fleming's commentary but looks at some different issues and obviously provides other perspectives. It's a fairly ordinary piece but one that merits a look.

A second featurette comes from the era of the film's original 1996 release. As one might expect, this five minute, 40 second piece is little more than a glorified trailer that promotes the movie. Actually, it's not bad for an example of its genre as it gives us a few interesting sound bites and some nice footage from the set. However, it's still a pretty bland program.

The DVD includes three deleted scenes, all of which can be viewed with or without commentary from Fleming. These clips run between 25 seconds to three minutes, 25 seconds for a total of about six and a half minutes. The segments are mildly interesting but nothing special and their absence isn't problematic. Fleming's comments effectively relate the reasons why the pieces didn't make the final film.

A few DVD stand-bys round out the collection. We get trailers for The Craft plus fellow horror offerings I Know What You Did Last Summer, John Carpenter's Vampires, and Bram Stoker's Dracula. The usual weak "Talent Files" found on most Columbia-Tristar DVDs appear as well. We get listings for Fleming, Balk, Tunney, Campbell and True that provide very little information. Finally, some brief but mildly interesting production notes appear in the DVD's booklet.

I can't say that The Craft is a great film, but if offers a moderately-entertaining little diversion highlighted mainly by the fact Robin Tunney looks extremely good in the movie. The DVD provides solid picture, even-better sound, and some fairly compelling extras. The movie's enough fun to merit a rental, and more serious fans will be very pleased to add it to their collections.

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