Kombi Nation (2003)

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Released 21-Mar-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Adventure Audio Commentary-Director And Cast
Featurette-Making Of
Featurette-Interviews With The Characters 3 Years On
Deleted Scenes-23
Theatrical Trailer
Teaser Trailer-4
Short Film-3, By Director Grant Lahood
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 83:11
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Grant Lahood

Arkles Entertainment
Starring Loren Horsley
Gantiane Lupi
Geneiveve McClean
Jason Whyte
Case ?
RPI ? Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

   Sometimes relatively unknown films take you totally by surprise. Kombi Nation is one such film. I hadn't heard of this film before I selected it for review, but now I can tell you - this film from New Zealand is a little gem.

   Writer and director Grant Lahood has created a highly entertaining film based on the ambition of many young people to backpack their way through Europe, although this trip isn't quite the dream our travellers had hoped for. Grant's previous film experience is mainly in short films - three of these are well presented as extras on this DVD. He has also made television commercials, and a first feature, Chicken, in 1995. Grant actually shares the writing credit with his four principal actors. Although he wrote the screenplay, considerable adlibbing was done by the actors, adding their contributions to the screenplay.

   Sal (Gentiane Lupi) arrives at Heathrow Airport to meet her sister, Maggie (Genevieve McClean) and friend Liz (Loren Horsley). All three girls are New Zealanders and have planned a European trip touring in a Kombi Van at their leisure. Sal has a surprise for the girls - she has brought a documentary film crew with her. To get the funds she needed to actually get to London, Sal agreed to have the trip filmed as part of a reality type TV program. Reluctantly, the other girls accept the deal and go looking for a Kombi to buy for their adventure.

   When they discover a shortfall in funds for the purchase, they are introduced to a fellow Kiwi, Scott (Jason Whyte). After carefully considering the camera crew, he chips in the extra cash needed, the Kombi is purchased, and the adventure (or misadventure) begins.

   The road trip starts smoothly, but it isn't long before tensions mount. Scott is on a personal quest to sleep with each of the girls, and is also selling drugs at campsites to keep his finances afloat. A hidden camera is planted in the Kombi by the crew to get voyeuristic footage. Personal items are tampered with, and money goes missing. The film crew are aware of the guilty parties, but deliberately keep this information from the travellers to heighten the tension. All this, and the constant presence of cameras filming and recording their every move, bring events to a boiling point.

   Kombi Nation was filmed from two different perspectives. We see film footage through the eyes of the reality TV crew, and handy cam footage from the travellers. Both are well edited to give a clear indication of whose point of view we are seeing. The film was actually shot using Super 16 and Digital Video, then blown up to 35mm for cinema release. Filming took place through many European countries using a small crew of five, and was shot guerrilla style. The crew set up quickly, filmed the scene, then moved on. The plot is always at the forefront, and locations are used only to enhance the scene, thus avoiding it becoming a simple travelogue film.

   The actors had extensive rehearsals before filming, a policy that paid huge dividends, as the performances from all four actors are totally convincing. Strangely, the film that sprung to mind most while watching Kombi Nation was The Blair Witch Project. Both are very different in subject matter, but both have the absolute necessity of portraying "real" people for the films to succeed.

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Transfer Quality


   Thankfully this film isn't let down by a poor transfer. It seems a lot of effort has gone into this DVD, both technically and content-wise. It's a shame all films aren't presented on DVD this well.

   The video transfer is excellent overall.

   The presented aspect ratio is 1.78:1, and is 16x9 enhanced.

   Images are sharp and clear throughout. The handycam footage is a little soft and less bold in colour, but that's to be expected. It is still very easy on the eye. Some night scenes display some minor grain, but overall blacks are clear of low level noise. Shadows are excellent, and hold detail very well.

   Colours are bold and very natural. As mentioned, handycam footage is a little muted in colour when cut directly with film footage.

   The transfer is free of MPEG artefacts. I also found no evidence of aliasing or edge enhancement. Being a very recent film, film artefacts were non-existent. Artefacts of any description were well controlled in this transfer.

   One down side of this DVD is the lack of any form of subtitles.

   This disc is single sided, dual layer. The layer change occurs at 73:57 and is very noticeable. This could have been better placed.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio quality is equally as impressive as the video.

    There are two audio tracks available. The default track is Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s). The other track is Dolby Digital 2.0 (Kb/s). Both are of excellent quality.

    Dialogue was crystal clear throughout. Even with the Kiwi accents, I had no problems picking up all the dialogue. Audio sync was spot on.

    Music is credited to Plan 9, although many rock artists songs feature on the soundtrack. Plan 9 have become one of New Zealand's major film composers in recent times. They composed the music for Perfect Strangers, the Australian feature Danny Deckchair, and various pieces for the three Lord Of The Rings films. Their score for Kombi Nation is easy listening and suits the film well.

   The surrounds are used well for ambient sounds and music. When any of the TV crew speak, their voices are heard through the rear speakers, which works well, and also separates them from the main protagonists.

   The subwoofer is used sparingly, mainly for music and to highlight the bass a few times. Kombi Nation is basically dialogue driven, so excessive use would not complement the film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    This DVD is presented with quality extras in abundance, and is indeed worthy of its claim of Collector's Edition.

    The menu is well planned and easy to navigate. It has some minor animation and sound effects, and is 16x9 enhanced.

Audio Commentary - Grant Lahood (Director), Gentiane Lupi (Sal), Genevieve McClean (Maggie) and Jason Whyte (Scott).

    An excellent commentary with hardly a quiet moment. Everyone involved gives their own insights into various scenes, as well as some amusing anecdotes. I found it very informative and well worth the listen. Presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).

Theatrical Trailer (1:24) and Teaser Trailers (:18, :20, :20, :21)

   All trailers are in excellent condition, and are 16x9 enhanced. Audio is Dolby Digital 2.0.

Featurette - Acting Auditions   

   Filmed on video, so therefore of lesser technical quality than the main feature, these are auditions featuring all four actors auditioning for their roles.

   Sal (2:26)   Scott (3:26)   Sal and Maggie (1:39)   Scott and Liz (3:53)

Photo Gallery Snap Shots (0:36)

   A nondescript selection of stills from the film.

Featurette - Making of Kombi Nation (22:01)

    This featuring interviews with cast and crew, discussing everything from original concept through to completion. It cuts between interviews and clips from the film to highlight the discussion. It also contains footage of the actors workshopping scenes from the film. A good companion to the audio commentary.

Featurette - The characters, three years on. (3:40)

    Interviews with the three girls, three years on. The girls are in character and explain what happened individually after the trip.

23 Deleted Scenes

    These scenes are of varying quality and most have time coding present. Although no commentary is provided with these scenes, it's quite easy to see where, and sometimes why, they were edited from the final cut.

    The Crew Will Help (:55)  The Crew Talk To Scott (:22)  Meeting Scott (1:24)  Scott Agrees To Come On The Trip (:25)  Eiffel Tower (:25)  Rabbit and Dog (:40)  Crew Install Hidden Camera (:12)  Scott Messes With Hubcap (:31)  Condom (:16)  Sal Makes An Effort (:38)  Ronvoso (:48)  Watch Under (1:06)  Sal Jumped Me (1:12)  The Dalhi Lamah Eats Meat (:34)  The Only Bar In Portugal (1:31)  Maggie Is Worried (1:03)  Scott Bums a Guide Book (:40)  Sal and Liz Do a Deal (1:51)  Scott By The Tree (1:32)  Maggie By The Stump (:42) Scott Talks About Theft (1:14)  Scott Picks a Fight (1:40)  Scott Goes To The Toilet (:27)

Three Short Films from Grant Lahood (Director)

     All three films are highly entertaining, and very well presented with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.

    Snail's Pace 1989 (3:56)

        A snail's journey to cross a busy road to reach the holy grail, a crate of lettuce.

    The Singing Trophy  1992 (12:52)

        A bizarre, yet enthralling story of a trophy hunter who has walls of mounted head trophies. However, he is missing one vital head, and will stop at nothing to get it.

    Lemming Aid  1994 (12:19)

        A group of dedicated animal lovers stand together on a cliff top to save the Lemmings from their death plunge into the sea.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

   I could not find any information relating to other region versions of Kombi Nation. I believe it has only been released in Region 4 to date.


   This is an outstanding transfer, loaded with quality extras, and is indeed a Collector's Edition.

   Kombi Nation has it all; dry humour through to intense drama. Above all, it is great entertainment. It may inspire some to start packing, and others maybe to unpack. For me, personally, I'm very happy with the European adventure I've just undertaken, and all in under an hour and a half.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
Monday, January 10, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDJVC XV-N412, using Component output
DisplayHitachi 106cm Plasma Display 42PD5000MA (1024x1024). This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationPanasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS
SpeakersFronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17

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