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Crazy Eights (2006)

DVD Released: 3/18/2008

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Audio: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/11/2008

Ah, the haunted, abandoned hospital genre -- why is it so popular? Is it due to the fact that the fear of hospitals is an innate one, and adding ghosts to the mixture only makes things scarier? No, I thinks it popular because an abandoned building makes for a cheap set. I recently reviewed the haunted hospital film The Sickhouse, and finished by recommending that viewers instead check out the 2005 film Boo. Now, I'm reviewing the newly released haunted hospital movie Crazy Eights, which is part of the After Dark Horrorfest‘s 8 Films to Die For. Get ready for another recommendation of Boo.

Crazy Eights opens with an on-screen text which informs us that during the 1960s and 70s, psychiatric hospitals took custody of thousands of children in order to conduct experiments. We then meet a group of old friends -- Gina (Traci Lords), Brent (Frank Whaley), Jennifer (Dina Meyer), Beth (Gabrielle Anwar), Lyle (George Newbern), and Wayne (Dan DeLuca) -- who have come together for the funeral of their friend Brax. In addition to the somber scene, they are all on edge due to the odd dreams which they've recently been having. After the funeral, they read a note containing Brax's final wishes. Following the directions on the note, they travel to an old barn, where they find a trunk. Upon opening the trunk, they recognize objects from their childhood. There is also a dead body in the trunk. They flee the scene, but soon become lost. They see a person run towards an old house, and stop there. They enter the house's basement, and find themselves trapped in an abandoned mental hospital. They are also confused and scared by their predicament and their panic grows once a supernatural force begins to pick then off one-by-one.

Crazy Eights has a running time of only 80 minutes, and I can't help but wonder if I saw a version which had been cut down from a longer length, because the movie didn't make any sense whatsoever. At the outset, the group of friends make comments implying that they've known each other for years. From there, they remark that they called themselves "The Crazy Eights" as children. Given the text at the film's opening, we, the audience, make the leap that they were in a mental hospital together. But, this is something that they don't remember until far into the film. This raises two immediate questions which the film doesn't answer: Why didn't they remember being in the hospital (was this a side effects of the experiments?), and as they didn't remember this, then why were they old friends/how did they meet? I even went back and watched some of the movie again to make sure that I didn't miss any information pertaining to these questions. I also wanted to know more about how Brax died. (It's implied that he killed himself.) The haunting isn't thoroughly explained either. I'm not sure if I ever fully understood whose body was in the trunk and who the ghost was...or were they the same person? And how in the hell did they go into the basement of a house and suddenly become trapped in a sprawling hospital? (Don't say underground tunnel, because I'm not buying it.)

As with The Sickhouse, Crazy Eights is a missed opportunity, as there is a lot of talent at work here. For a low-budget film, the cast is filled with recognizable faces, and the acting is fairly solid here. Of the cast, Frank Whaley is the most believable and even Traci Lords holds her own (I know what you're thinking. Get your mind out of the gutter) with the rest of the actors. The most inspiring, and thus disappointing aspect of the film is the ability of co-writer/producer/executive producer/editor/director James K. Jones to create jump scares. Using a style somewhat similar to John Carpenter's, Jones stage several scenes where the ghost (ghosts?) appear in the background to attack a character. In one such scene, the ghost stays in the background for quite some time and it's not until it moves that we realize what it is. These scenes are quite powerful and lend the movie some much needed energy. However, Jones isn't able to get much suspense or tension out of the straight-forward attack scenes here, and there's certainly not enough gore to interest those who like their horror bloody.

Was Crazy Eights supposed to play like a fever-dream? Was there an entire undercurrent that I missed? All I know is that I watched every single frame of this movie (some twice) and was flummoxed by most of it. James K. Jones shows some promise as a filmmaker, but like many beginners, he needs to polish the script before he steps behind the camera.

Crazy Eights is committed to DVD courtesy of Lionsgate. The film has been letterboxed at 2.37: 1 (?) and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. To be honest, I’m not sure if the movie was shot on film or HD. I’m leaning towards film because it has a dark and somewhat grainy look. The picture is sharp and clear for the most part, but many shots lack in detail and there is some video noise in certain scenes. The image is overly dark in spots, making the action difficult to discern. Colors tend to be slightly washed out. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. I noted some minor stereo effects at times, along with selective surround effects, all of which are used to suggest movement in the hospital. The shock scenes offers some mild subwoofer effects.

There are bonus features on this DVD which relate directly to the film. We are offered “Miss Horrorfest Contest Webisodes” which will interest those who like women in scary makeup.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long