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  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • None
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Audio commentary - Director and co-writer Robert Sarkies and co-writer Duncan Sarkies
  • Cast/crew biographies
  • Production notes
  • Interviews
  • Awards/Nominations


Magna/Magna . R4 . COLOR . 90 mins . MA15+ . PAL


For starters, "Scarfies" is NOT the mispronounced title of a rather famous Brian De Palma film, rather it's New Zealand slang for students from Dunedin University, so named due to their penchant for that delight of sartorial elegance, the ever faithful scarf, as a buffer against the winter chills.

Now that we've cleared that up, the film Scarfies revolves around five students - the bravado-soaked pragmatic one, the thoughtful one, the happy-go-lucky hunky one, the rich blonde girl slumming it and the soppy dork - who come together in what seems like a dream squat, a shit-hole mansion with paper thin, crumbling walls and two incredibly helpful bonuses - no rent and free electricity. Ah, but there surely must be a reason why the power's still connected, right?

They soon discover why, when a sortie into the basement discovers most every student's dream - nicely matured dope plants as far as the eye can see. They sample some of the merchandise and a plot is hatched after some minimal devil/angel workouts - dollar signs win out and they go about flogging the crop and spend, spend, spending. When they come home from an aborted attempt at attending a rugby match to find a rather pissed-off owner of the crop, however, their cosy little stude nirvana does go rather pear-shaped.

Locking 'the intruder' in the basement, the psychological games begin, with housemates' varied guilts and paranoias playing off those of the other housemates, and their unwelcome guest adding to the cocktail - especially after having his hands, and lips, super-glued together and being subjected to electric shock treatment. So just how do you deal with a VERY pissed-off captured criminal who will more than likely have your guts for garters if given any opportunity?

"United we stand, divided we're fucked..."

The debut feature film from the Sarkie brothers, Duncan and Robert (the latter of whom also directed), Scarfies engenders obvious comparisons with the likes of Shallow Grave, and effortlessly combines light comedy with that of the seriously blacker kind, drama and suspense in what is a pleasingly entertaining cocktail. The packaging and tagline may give the belief that this is a stoner film (subtleties like the massive dope leaf emblazoned on the disc for example), however it's most definitely a different kettle of fish to the likes of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Dazed and Confused, Get Crazy or other such films. It plays with your emotions sneakily, as you find yourself laughing when your better judgement tells you not to, and whilst hardly able to be accused of being particularly deep and meaningful (which I'd doubt was the creators' intent anyway), it does have a certain morality to it that avoids being preachy, and rather makes you think just a little.

Performances from the cast are fabulous, especially when they are all pretty much either neophytes when it comes to films, or refugees from the New Zealand equivalent of Neighbours, Shortland Street or the likes of Xena and Hercules, and notably Jon Brazier's turn as 'the intruder' is disturbingly menacing and particularly effective. Add to this a snappy script, wonderful pacing and a certain directorial flair that is impressive for a first time feature director, and Scarfies delivers fridge-loads of occasionally macabre fun.


Now this would have to be the most disappointing aspect of the disc, especially in light of the film's recent vintage. Whilst it's nicely presented in 1.85:1 and anamorphically enhanced, the print looks suspiciously like one that's been through cinemas - especially when what appear to be reel change blobs pop up top right on occasions. There are chunks of dirt or similar detritus at times and major flecks throughout most of the film, some glaring examples of grain, and a certain almost overbright look to some scenes. Colour is quite muted, reflecting the intended grey appearance of Dunedin, and generally sharpness and detail suffer due to the limitations in quality of the print used.


A 5.1 mix is impressive for a limited budget feature, and whilst not a sonic booming experience to die for, the film definitely works better for the treatment. Surround usage isn’t huge, and the old subwoofwoof doesn’t get to do a lot, however audio is at most times very clear, although some of the intentionally muffled bits - such as people shouting down chimneys - can be difficult to catch, which of course is understandable. The Kiwi accents are incredibly prominent, but shouldn't pose a problem for anybody but the most cloth-eared. The only really bad issue sonically is in a couple of scenes where the synch goes way off kilter, giving the appearance that dialogue was either looped very shoddily, or was substituted for something else at a later stage.

The soundtrack absolutely, completely totally and utterly ROCKS. A vast selection of tracks from New Zealand's phenomenal talent goldmine Flying Nun label are included, with people such as Headless Chickens, The Chills, JPS Experience, The Clean, HDU, Straitjacket Fits, Bike, The 3Ds, Verlaines, Love's Ugly Children and King Loser all getting plenty of much deserved exposure. For those of you whose New Zealand music knowledge pretty much starts and ends with the surname Finn, this is most definitely one seriously essential soundtrack CD to hunt down.


A severely yellow static menu actually has quite a few treats hidden away beneath its rather drab exterior…

Audio commentary: Generally when commentary virgins are let loose you'll get either one of two extremes - severe drollery or an engaging cack-fest. Mercifully this is of the latter variety, as Robert and Duncan Sarkie merrily discuss some of the many ins and outs of their baby. Everything from locations, budget restraints, sets, budget restraints and secret stuff is covered, through to lots of chat about budget restraints, the aforementioned and very fabulous soundtrack, visiting Cannes, edits made to the script, budget restraints, crane shots, the fact that one of them finds a woolly, teddy bear-like look sexy on a girl (ooh, finally somebody who may appreciate my cutie-pie beanie!), budget restraints and, of course, that absolute manna from heaven, fesh and cheps (hey, it's the only time I've gone there - forgiveness, please!)

Trailer: Just over two minutes in length, whilst in the right ratio this isn’t anamorphically enhanced and is a tad washed out. It is, however, a snappily edited piece that serves to promote the flick well.

Cast and Crew: Quite thorough and easy to read bios on four of the squatmates, and the two Sarkie brothers.

Making of: A painfully short, 6:55 long full frame presentation, this features brief interview snippets with all five squatmates and the two Sarkies, along with the requisite scenes from the film.

Production notes: A quite satisfyingly thorough textual feature, providing much background to the film and its makers, and including a few definitions of words such as 'Scarfie', 'squat', 'deal' and for the painfully dumb, 'marijuana'.

Interviews: The phrase 'painfully short' pops up again, with these cursorily interesting interviews with three cast members and Duncan Sarkie that have only one real fault - severe brevity, with the four of them clocking in at just over two minutes in total.


The video's kind of sucky, but the sound (and THAT soundtrack), plus an impressive array of extras for a relatively low budget film, help take Scarfies much higher in the value stakes.

If you enjoyed the likes of Shallow Grave then this really is a must see, and if given a chance it is sure to become a staple on those shelves made of bricks and boards that seem to inhabit every known student digs on the planet.


  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=1041
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      And I quote...
    "Fridge-loads of occasionally macabre fun that deserves a place on those shelves made of bricks and boards that seem to inhabit every known student digs on the planet..."
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Onkyo TX-DS494
    • Speakers:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse RBS662
    • Centre Speaker:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECC442
    • Surrounds:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECR042
    • Subwoofer:
          DTX Digital 4.8
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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