Released: 28th October
Seen: 29th October
In 1996 there was a low budget horror film called The Craft. The Craft came out early in the horror resurgence of the 90s, as in it was released about 6 months before the monster hit Scream completely revived the genre. It was a story of four social outcasts who bonded over a shared love of magic and how their usage of it for personal gain and revenge ended up backfiring on them horribly. It’s perhaps best remembered for the completely mental and brilliant performance by Fairuza Balk, a performance that’s so iconic it basically defined her entire career from that point onward. The Craft became somewhat of a cult hit, even influencing the monster hit series Charmed (the theme song from that series was used in this movie, plus the writer-director claimed to have pitched the series and had his idea stolen) so it has quite a legacy… enough that 24 years later we’d finally get a sequel, and not a good one.
The Craft: Legacy follows Lily (Cailee Spaeny), a new girl in town whose mother is moving in with her new boyfriend, meaning Lily now has a step-father and three step brothers. On the first day of Lily’s new school she gets her period during her first class which results in her meeting Lourdes (Zoey Luna), Frankie (Gideon Adlon) and Tabby (Lovie Simone) who are all into witchcraft. After a little bit of hanging out they realise that Lily is also a witch, meaning their coven of four is complete and they’re able to explore just what their powers can do with no real ramifications whatsoever because magic is awesome and doesn’t in any way have a single downside. Oh, and there might also be some evil men in the background who might turn up at some point to provide conflict but really, who cares because the main girls can make time stop and it’s super awesome. No problems here.
Throughout The Craft: Legacy the main quartet of witches are seen doing spell after spell and it never backfires or costs them anything which is kind of boring, and annoying if you’re in any way a fan of the original film. See, in the original The Craft, every spell that was cast had some kind of cost that happened due to how the spell worked. Nancy did a spell to get power, her step dad dies. Sarah casts a love spell on a guy, he ends up trying to rape her. The point was that spells had costs and it created some serious tension and fear… this film doesn’t have that.
In this film, characters can basically use magic however they want and it’s totally awesome. There is no problem with the magic, everything’s fine, no one’s going to go mad with power around here… which means it’s boring and has no tension. The one time that it’s even implied that their magic may have had some kind of negative issue (btw, the first sign of anything bad and the girls are binding their powers… cos that’s interesting) it’s later revealed to be the actual big bad of the movie and had nothing to do with their spells.
Throw on top of that how The Craft: Legacy really does follow a lot of key beats from the original, including the moment where a main character has their powers bound in order to prevent them from doing harm against others and harm against themselves. This moment in the original film, was emotional and powerful and also helped lead to the climax of the film but in this movie it’s done because… uh… reasons? If a moment is repeated from the original movie, it’s repeated badly without the same sense of importance or context to make it mean anything.
That’s not to say that everything about this film is just repeating things from the original movie, there are some new elements and they are a little hit or miss. For example, one of the main four witches in this movie is a transwoman who is played by a transwoman and that’s kind of amazing, we don’t see that enough and it was a welcome change. Indeed this film has quite a decent amount of LGBT characters, using terminology that feels accurate for a film set in a modern day high school. These are good things that more horror films should be able to do and I’m glad this film did them… I wish that they’d actually given the transwoman a character that was compelling, but at least she’s there.
Then there’s the David Duchovny character who basically is a Jordan Peterson type who tries to teach men how to be men. He’s clearly meant to be somewhat imposing and I’m sure at some point in the script he was but they do nothing with him, he’s certainly a presence in the film (mostly because he’s the only actor in the film anyone would really recognise) but never once does it feel like he’s there for any good reason. Same goes for pretty much every character because this film just isn’t good or even scary.
The brilliance of the original Craft was that it slowly revealed that the magic was dark in nature, things slowly got worse and worse until the big climax. There was tension being built up, the characters we were asked to identify with were slowly revealed to be the villains of the film and it made for some horrifying imagery, while creating a final sequence so bonkers that they could let Fairuza just go for broke… there is none of that here, no tension or build up or anything. The final scene of this film with our big villain is maybe five minutes of exposition and a bullshit ending that does nothing of value. A final confrontation in a horror film should feel cathartic, the final girls triumphing over evil when it looked like all hope was lost… nope, that’d take effort and who needs that?
The annoying thing is that I genuinely wanted to love this film, I love the original in the series and with modern technology it could’ve been so much better. Hell, I was enjoying some of the performances here, there’s a scene where a group of the teens play two truths and a lie which has some decent performances. The final shot of the film offers a lot of promise for the future of this franchise… if I wanted this franchise to have a future. There’s elements of this movie that aren’t awful but they are few and far between.
The Craft: Legacy feels like a direct to video sequel that would’ve been on the shelves of blockbuster in 1998 and made by people who read a three sentence description of the original The Craft… except it’s a wide release film in 2020. While it has some elements worthy of praise, none of those elements involve the idea of horror or the actual story of the witches themselves. I bind this movie from doing harm, harm against other audiences and harm against itself… oh wait, I don’t need to bind it because this film has no real power for me to bind.