Scarfies (1999) Movie Review

The New Zealand movie “Scarfies” is a good movie only if you can forgive its farcical and truly terrible ending. The film, about 5 college students who discover an elaborate marijuana stash growing in the basement of their rundown house, requires you to take one big leap of faith. It’s this: Upon discovering the marijuana, our students, one of whom wants to attend law school, decides on the spot — and I mean on the spot — that they should sell the pot, thus officially becoming drug dealers. Now, if this seems completely beyond the realm of reason to you, then the rest of “Scarfies” will be irrelevant.

Jon Brazier plays Kevin, the rundown building’s original owner, who returns from whereabouts unknown to discover his stash gone. Making matters worst, the rightfully ticked off crook finds out that the college kids have sold his plants at a discount! And before you can say, “Wait a minute, didn’t I see this in ‘Suicide Kings’ already?” the kids have the crook tied up in a chair, has super glued his lips and hands together, and between bouts of torturing him in various ways, they argue relentlessly with each other about this and that and everything else. Meanwhile, the crook resorts to mind games.

The whole thing was so familiar I kept wondering when Denis Leary was going to show up to save the day. The college kids are played by Willa O’Neill as Emma, who along with Scott (Neill Rea) seems to be the only people with a modicum of common sense. There’s bad boy Alex (Taika Cohen), rich girl Nicola (Ashleigh Seagar), and awkward virgin Graham (Charlie Bleakley). Through the course of the film, Graham reveals his puppy dog crush on Nicola, who is too busy waking up the neighborhood with wild and loud sex with bad boy Alex to notice.

Soon, Graham’s more sadistic side shows up when he invents an elaborate electrical headgear for Kevin to wear so they can torture him while watching him on a TV screen. Gee, sounds fun. And we’re supposed to like these sadistic bastards? If it sounds as if our college kids are not very sympathetic, that’s because they’re arrogant, selfish, and just generally unlikable people. Only Emma and Scott come close to provoking sympathy, but even they have moments where they are simply crass. All the while, Jon Brazier’s crook is made to suffer at the hands of his captors.

“Scarfies” plays out as a comedy for its first 30 minutes, but becomes a bit of a black comedy for the next 30 minutes, only to shift into completely farcical territory for the final 20 minutes. The ending is ridiculous and takes the easy road out. Not only does the whole “holding the guy captive and torturing him for days on end in the basement” thing gets all cleaned up nice and tidy, but the college kids never get any comeuppance. Oh sure, some of them gets internally “messed up” by what they did to poor Kevin, but I’d much rather see them get externally messed up instead, if you know what I mean.

A lot of “Scarfies” is highly recommended, but only if you ignore some very obvious questions. Such as: How is it that a two-story house located at what appears to be prime real estate has been abandoned? Or how about the fact that these supposed college kids never seem to go to school, except for one scene where we see Emma in class for about a couple of seconds? But being that “Scarfies” is mostly black comedy, we aren’t meant to really ask questions.

Still, the film is a bit of a letdown, especially considering its outrageously tidy ending. Except for one character getting stabbed in the chest, these wholly unlikable kids come out of the whole thing with nary a scratch. Maybe I’m just not as forgiving as your regular Kiwi audience, but that reeks of a cheat.

Robert Sarkies (director) / Duncan Sarkies, Robert Sarkies (screenplay)
CAST: Willa O’Neill …. Emma
Neill Rea …. Scott
Ashleigh Seagar …. Nicola
Taika Cohen …. Alex
Charlie Bleakley …. Graham
Jon Brazier …. Kevin

Buy Scarfies on DVD