When The Craft was released in 1996 there weren’t a whole lot of publicly visible first reactions. Certainly somewhere, someone in our community was writing about it online, but the online world didn’t quite have the reach it does today all those years ago. My own thoughts on the movie all those decades ago were mostly positive, in a way it was actually the first time I had ever really seen Witch ritual outside of my solitary experiences.
I was surprised several months later when the reviews and comments I saw in magazines (remember those?) were mostly negative. A few years later I began to hear that “The Craft had ruined Witchcraft,” often accompanied by the gnashing of teeth and cries of “Get off my lawn!” Fast forward to the year 2000 and much of the negative reaction was gone, instead replaced with a grudging amount of respect for a movie that got at least a few people through the front door.
Rewatching the original film last week I was struck by just how stuck in the 90’s it was, but for me it was a mostly a happy nostalgia. It was nice to be transported back to a time before Facebook, and to witness a Witchcraft with some strong consequences. The performances held up too, and the four main characters were just as well defined as I remembered them being.
Will The Craft:Legacy leave a mark as large as its predecessor? It’s hard to say. COVID-19 killed the film’s theatrical release, and it remains to be seen how many Witches are in a hurry to pony up twenty dollars to rent this movie on-demand. The long-term legacy here will probably be how this movie does on streaming services, and whether it finds its intended audience there.
If you are looking for a Witchcraft movie that mostly looks like Modern Witchcraft you’ll probably love The Craft:Legacy. Sure the film’s main protagonists have magickal abilities that would make Harry Potter blush, but there’s some lovely Wiccan-esque dialogue, mentions of Maiden, Mother and Crone, and a few spells that actually look like spells your or I might cast. (I will warn you the end result of some of those spells can be rather absurd looking, the special effects here are not particularly special.) The young women in this film aren’t worshipping Manon either (though the “deity” is name-checked later in the movie) it’s a change I was happy to see.
QUICK THOUGHTS (NO SPOILERS)
-My biggest problem with the film lies with how poorly serviced most of the characters in this film are. Only one character, Cailee Spaeny’s Lily, is really given much material to work with. In the original, all four young women had backstories and motivations, the other three Witches here are mostly just present. It’s telling that all four Witches in the original film have last names, not so in Legacy.
This is especially problematic because the other three Witches were just as intriguing, especially Zoey Luna’s Lourdes and Lovie Simone’s Tabby. At one point Tabby laments her lack of “black friends” and it’s a powerful moment but it’s never followed up on in any meaningful way. Lourdes is a young trans woman, which is only mentioned twice in the film. In some ways I like how this was barely remarked upon in the film, but at the same time I think Lourdes has a story I would have loved to see on the screen. She also feels like the leader of the crew, and I want to know how she ended up in that position.
The fourth Witch in the quartet is given even less personality. About the only thing I remember about Gideon Adlon’s Frankie is that Frankie seems to always be wearing a rather heavy looking jacket no matter where she’s at, indoors or out. This is a breezy 90 minute movie, I would have loved to have spent more time with the characters in it.
-This film is heavy on solidarity. The Witches here all basically love and support one another, which was fun to see. I liked their camaraderie and it never felt forced in the scenes the four young ladies shared together. Maybe it’s just my advanced age, but they all looked like plausible teenagers to me. In the original the Witches there looked more like college students.
-There are some really fun moments in the film when the magick of Lourdes, Tabby, Frankie, and Lily really works, with somewhat unintended consequences. I don’t want to spoil this part of the film, because it’s fun and a highlight.
-David Duchovny is in this movie for maybe twenty minutes? He plays an asshole who believes “men are victims” and should be completely in charge of society. He’s basically Lily’s stepdad, but like most of the characters in this movie, he’s not explored adequately.
-Lily, Lourdes, Tabby, and Frankie all came across as awkward teenagers to me, and I loved it. I saw some resemblance to a whole lot of Witches I knew twenty-five years ago. Mat Auryn disagreed with me, and thought they were all too well adjusted, and he felt that the original foursome better conveyed a sense of “outsiderness.” Is it fair to compare the two sets of Witches? Maybe not, but everyone else is going to, so why not me too?
-There were times when watching The Craft: Legacy where it felt less like a movie and more like a series of scenes sort of strung together. This is a film that needed a longer run time and more development of its themes, ideas, and characters.
-The movie’s primary antagonist falls completely flat. There’s a bit of a backstory here, but it’s not well thought out, and translated rather poorly to the screen. I can see what director and screenwriter Zoe Lister-Jones was trying to do, but this part of the film needed more backstory and development. There’s not much in the way of menace in The Craft: Legacy, or scares. This is not a horror movie, or even scary.
-The final confrontation was also an anti-climax, and as Mat Auryn said to me (OK, he texted) it felt like it was something “from Charmed and not The Craft.”
-This is not a re-imagining or a re-boot, it’s a sequel. After the film’s final scene, I was definitely left wanting more.
I know I sound quite negative with a lot of these thoughts, but I surprisingly liked this movie. It portrayed magick as the empowering enterprise we know it to be, and while the ladies in the film go a little overboard with it, they are generally respectful of boundaries and other people. I read an early review which suggested the original The Craft was for kids who grew up in Doc Martens and Marilyn Manson, while the new one is for the Instagram generation of Witches. I pretty much agree.
Final Grade: 7 out of 10 It’s a quick watch, the young actresses do a lot with the little most of them are given, and there are some pretty cool ritual/magick scenes. You could do a lot worse.