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Six childhood friends are brought together at a mutual friend's funeral and collectively decide to honour the friend's wishes and divide the estate. The group happens upon a treasure map at said estate that leads to a time capsule. The contents of the capsule reawaken repressed childhood memories and lead the group to a now-abandoned orphanage where they were raised. Enter a mysterious girl that is totally not Samara from THE RING to cause trouble, and I try to stay awake.
Ugh. Of the films I reviewed from this year's crop of After Dark Horrorfest releases, CRAZY EIGHTS has got to be the most boring. I seriously fell asleep watching this thing, waiting for something, anything, to happen. And when something did happen, it was halfway through the film. What the hell was this?
I guess we have to start with the plot, which proves once again that Hollywood is running dry on creative writers. The story revolves around a group of friends who used to call themselves 'The Crazy Eights' as kids (though the six we're introduced to don't remember the eighth at all). I don't know about you, but I wouldn't be calling myself crazy at any point during my upbringing. Now, maybe. Anyway, the story dissolves into the 'revenge from beyond the grave' shtick, with the eighth kid's ghost coming back to hunt down the remaining six at the orphanage where they all grew up. Oh, and the group doesn't remember they were experimented on during their stay at the orphanage, or that they were responsible for the death of their eighth friend until later.
Now, I will admit the idea of a haunted orphanage is pretty cool, but only if it's executed correctly. Meaning, you have a great script and actors that are spot on with their stuff, coupled with gore and a spooky score. Can you guess what this film had instead? Granted, the actors made the characters likeable, but whether it was the script or the actors themselves, no one was that distinguishable from each other. Hard to sympathize or care about a character if they're all clones, isn't it? Of course, given the fact that screenplay was written and then rewritten by a total of four people (Jones being on-hand for both), it's obvious what the problem was.
Probably the most noteworthy aspect of the film is the cinematography. While it borrows a lot from Asian filmmaking (odd angles, scene transitions, etc.), co-Writer/Director James K. Jones' visual flare in this film is a step up from the other films I've seen from last year's Horrorfest. Lighting, while delving into music video territory, is pretty impressive, especially when coupled with the appropriately-dirty orphanage, which echoed some of the scenes from SILENT HILL (and in particular, SILENT HILL 3, for you gamers out there). That said, when you pay more attention to the background than the characters, you know something's wrong.
Another thing with the film is that due to the slower than slow pace, the scares are obviously next-to-none in terms of generating any sort of reaction. The gore is noticeably absent from here (though the ripped-open jaw effect was neat), and if you're looking for Traci Lords to reprise her 'other' talents, look somewhere else, since there's none of that going on, either. Too bad, since that would've kept me interested (and awake) for the most part.
If anything, this film was a poor man's excuse to do a horror take of THE BIG CHILL, with some Asian horror sprinkled here and there. If the script wasn't such a mess, we could've had something that was memorable. However, if you're an insomniac looking for a horror fix, this film at the very least will satisfy the former.
Video: The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen image can be summed up in one word: soft. It borders on being fuzzy the majority of the film (save for the flashback sequences), and despite this, the film has some grain to it (though it's minimal). Colours are muted (again, except for the flashbacks, which are higher in contrast and brighter), which help to set the film's dirty atmosphere. The details during some of the darker moments take a hit, unfortunately.
Audio: Pretty consistent with the rest of the After Dark films I've reviewed. The 5.1 Dolby Digital track is quite good. Dialogue is clear and clean throughout the film, and the atmospheric effects contribute appropriately. The score at times was a little loud for the film, and some of the directional sounds didn't match up with what was going on in the scene, but like the dialogue, they were clean and free of distortion.
Yippee, we have the same extras here as most of the films from last year's Horrorfest: trailers for THE EYE remake and the festival itself, and 20 minutes worth of webisodes of the Miss Horrorfest Contest. Seriously, would it have killed them to at least give any of the films (besides BORDERLAND and MULBERRY ST.) a unique special feature or two? Jeez.
As for the slipcase, if you swear you've seen this art before, look no further than a scene from THE RING. Just substitute the well for a hospital hallway and add blood where appropriate.
A classic example of a script breaking the film, CRAZY EIGHTS is another wasted opportunity. If you're looking for a better trapped-in-an-institution horror flick, go pick up SESSION 9 or BOO.