Scarfies (1999)

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Released 13-Nov-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Unknown Main Menu Audio
Theatrical Trailer
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Featurette-Making Of
Interviews-Cast & Crew
Audio Commentary
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1999
Running Time 90:12 (Case: 95)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Robert Sarkies
Magna Home Entertainment
Starring Willa O'Neill
Neill Rea
Ashleigh Seagar
Taika Cohen
Charlie Bleakley
Jon Brazier
Case Click
RPI $29.95 Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    The front cover of Scarfies really didn't inspire a lot of empathy on my part. I first thought it to be some Swedish drug movie - how wrong I was. To my surprise, I found this movie to be a little gem in the rough, an independent movie with excellent cinematography from Stephen Downes, a gritty and often humorous plot from the brothers Sarkies and a sense of direction that only comes from someone that truly believes in what he is doing in Robert Sarkies. This is a very gritty, and often grimy, film that takes you on a roller coaster ride of emotions and situations all centred around one house in the middle of Dunedin, New Zealand. Even though made on a shoestring budget, the set locations were excellent and the acting had a real edge to it, coming from a group of relatively unknown actors and a supporting cast of dozens co-opted from uni or the local pubs at little or no expense.

    It's the beginning of a new year at Otago University, the home of the 'scarfies' and law student Emma (Willa O'Neill) needs a place to stay, preferably somewhere cheap. While checking the university's community noticeboard, she spots an ad for a house offering free rent. Taking one of the cut-offs, she heads off to meet Scotty (Neill Rea) who introduces her to the house (or the sh*thole as he quaintly refers to it) with its non-existent amenities, holes in the walls, crap all over the floor and an abundant supply of electricity. They are soon joined by two other students seeking 'cheap' accommodation, Alex (Taika Cohen) and Nicole (Ashleigh Seagar). Between them, they begin 'renovating' the house to make it more liveable.

    During a house-warming party, the fifth member of the household rocks up, Graham (Charlie Bleakley) who is only accepted because he has a Holden (and a bigger rust bucket I doubt you'll see). Realising they could use some heating, they head off to a local auction where they end up buying a load of old fridges. Needing somewhere to store them, they decide to put them in the basement, which up to now they have avoided, believing it would be in a worse state than the rest of the house. To their surprise, they find a locked metal door which resists their attempts to break in.

    After attempting to kick the door down and taking a short break, Alex stumbles across the key and lo and behold, they find the basement is full of marijuana, matured and ready for the picking. Taking a vote as to what do (while taking a hit or two for themselves) they decide to a) smoke a bit, b) sell the rest and c) spend the profits. After reaping $50,000 on the sale of the crop to a couple of local crims, they settle down to a life of comfort, warmth and rugby. With their new-found wealth they go on a buying spree and refurnish the house. They also buy tickets to the local rugby finals between Auckland and Otago (hence the war-painted face on the front cover of the DVD, the colours of the Otago football club).

    This is where the fun begins. Heading off to the game, Emma discovers she's left her ticket behind so they turn around and go back. Once back inside the house, Emma hears a noise in the basement and realises that the real owner of the crop has discovered his loss and is really p***** off. Panicking, she manages to lock him in the basement, which makes him madder than ever. Screaming for the others to come back inside they begin to try and negotiate with the intruder, but he keeps screaming about how he wants his money and how he'll kill them when he gets to them. Retiring to the kitchen they must decide what to do; a) go to the police or b) watch the rugby final on TV?

    Taking you any further than this into the movie will spoil what is a very well thought-out and acted movie which has some really discomfiting moments in it (which I personally find impressive). Each of the members of the household go through their own personal demons, and some even become violent and murderous in their attempts to find a solution to their dilemma. I did find the ending a bit contrived but actually quite amusing in a sense, and all the way through there is a real twisted sense of humour emanating from the script. All-in-all an excellent first-up effort and well worth a watch.

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Transfer Quality


    Independent films are often made with low budgets and this one is no exception. For the most part, their lack of money also means they don't have a lot to spend on post production or indeed a lot of film to spare. This is the case with Scarfies, but for the most part it actually adds some drama and character to the movie.

    This feature is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The sharpness is actually quite good, with no edge enhancement noticeable although the entire movie does suffer just marginally from some slight blurring, but this could be more intrinsic to the source material rather than a fault with the transfer. The minimal grain on offer is particularly pleasing, being fairly unobtrusive during the entire movie. There is no low level noise and some good background detail is on offer even during low lit shots. Shadow detail is very decent for the most part and overall the transfer only shows the cheapness of the shoot, not problems with the transfer.

    Dunedin is in the south of New Zealand, so it's cold. To give that feeling of cold, blue lighting was extensively used on the sets and it matched in perfectly with the cold air and freezing breath on the cast in the exterior shots. Some parts of the movie exhibited a fair range of colour, especially when imbuing a scene with warmth, but for the most part cold and dingy was the order of the day so the palette was fairly muted as a result. Bleeding wasn't an issue and even the lack of makeup on the actors served to highlight many scenes.

    Although no MPEG artefacts were seen, there was a real problem with film artefacts. Annoying, little specks were there constantly throughout the movie. The worst offenders were some of the stock shots but there were simply too many bits of dirt or black and white marks to worry about listing them. You'll see what I mean within the first thirty seconds. Conversely, I can't recall a single instance of aliasing or other film-to-video problems, although there were a couple of ideal opportunities for these artefacts to raise their head.

    There were no subtitles present on this disc.

    This is a single layered disc with no layer change.

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


    It is interesting to note that there are two audio tracks on this disc, but neither are selectable and you must use your remote to select the optional Commentary track. Your default and only option initially is a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack at the bitrate of 384 kilobits per second.

    Apart from the Kiwi accents, there is very little problem with the dialogue on this disc and the syncing was excellent.

    The director paid a fair bit of credit to something called the 'Dunedin' sound, which comprises most of the soundtrack for this movie. I guess it's a New Zealand thing, but the music was definitely a little left of centre for the most part. I think to save money they got some of the local musos in to help out which actually adds a lot to the credibility of the movie and gave it a unique sound. Typical of a movie of this type though, the music is definitely incidental for the most part, and more often than not, apart from some sound effects the dialogue takes centre stage. Still, interesting choices for the music although it won't be making me head to Dunedin for another sample.

    Front and centre is the catch-cry for the most part on this disc. Surround sound usage is strictly limited, mostly with the effects and occasionally when the music is on offer. Considering your attention should be on the dialogue this is no big loss, although on the odd occasion the rears did kick in, adding some nice elements to the overall feel being created.

    As far as the subwoofer goes I can honestly say I didn't notice it at all. I doubt if there was enough bass to really be felt anyway.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Main Menu Audio

    Lifted from the movie, it's by the JPS Experience who are unknown to me. It's a complete song (approx 2.55) with about a 20 second silence and then it loops again.

Theatrical Trailer

    Presented in 1.33:1 with a running time of 2:12. It exhibits overly loud sound, lots of artefacts and actually is very well done.

Biographies-Cast & Crew

    Details on the life and times of Willa O'Neill (Emma), Taika Cohen (Alex), Neill Rea (Scotty), Ashleigh Seagar (Nicole), Charlie Bleakley (Graham) and writers/director Duncan and Robert Sarkies.

Featurette-Making Of

    Basically your short feature with cast and crew giving you some insights into the making of the movie and their roles. Pretty standard stuff presented in 1.33:1 and running at about 6:50. All music came from the right speaker and all voices from the left speaker.

Interviews-Cast & Crew

    Why these were added I don't know, but some of them were covered in the 'Making of' section, albeit without the additional 10 seconds worth (woohoo). Four very short interviews on offer here; Willa O'Neill (0:40), Ashleigh Seagar (0:32), Charlie Bleakley (0:28) and Duncan Sarkies (0:28).

Audio Commentary

    This audio commentary is directly accessed by selecting an alternate audio feed from your remote control. There is no selection on the menu, so beware. It features the two brothers, Duncan and Robert Sarkies, who co-wrote the movie (Robert also directed it), and you certainly get the feel that this was a movie they both had a lot of input into. The guys follow the movie on-screen and describe the sets, the actors, how they found the locations, working with the actors and the various setups and where they made use of cinema magic. Some of the information comes across a little clumsily, but then you are listening to two brothers which has them both very much at ease and enjoying themselves. The commentary features discussions on props, extras, some of the in-jokes as well as how they managed on such a limited budget to make such a grotty looking location work so well. It's good to see Indie filmmakers making use of the advantages offered by DVD. It's actually far more interesting to hear people who've made something on a really tight budget talk about how they cut corners and saved money than listening to someone waffle on about how great the CGI looked.

R4 vs R1

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

    This looks to be strictly a Region 4 disc for the moment, so we have the release of choice. There is no Region 1 disc available.


    I have to admit that Scarfies took me a little by surprise. It was well-acted, low budget and vastly entertaining. As a first-up motion picture for the brothers it comes across very well, although some of the attitudes were a little disconcerting at times, but that added rather than detracted from its appeal.

    The video is surprisingly good considering the budget. You may notice a slight blurriness at the beginning but that quickly fades and the transfer, although not in the crystal-clear category is very good for what it is.

    The audio is a little on the low-rent side being mainly dialogue-driven. There isn't a lot of surround work and no subwoofer activity that I could note, but besides that it worked very well aurally within the structured confines of the house.

    I won't say the extras are brilliant but the commentary alone is good value, with the rest being interesting filler if nothing else.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Carl Berry (read my bio)
Saturday, January 26, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDLoewe Xemix 5006DD, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Xelos (81cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderRotel RSP-976. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationRotel RB 985 MkII
SpeakersJBL TLX16s Front Speakers, Polk Audio LS fx di/bipole Rear Speakers, Polk Audio CS350-LS Centre Speaker, M&KV-75 Subwoofer

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Comments (Add)
Thanks for the Audio info! - Bee@thbluehouse