Synopsis – A group of high school students form a coven of witches. A sequel to the 1996 film, “The Craft”.
My Take – In spite of the variety of IP at disposal, studios nowadays just seem adamant about remaking, rebooting or churning out a sequel of anything, just hoping to cash in on the nostalgia factor, irrespective of the necessity. Hence it did not come as a surprise when Blumhouse announced that it would be tackling a reboot/sequel of the 1996 high school horror flick, The Craft.
A film which gained a cult following, despite its excessive campy nature, for presenting four flawed yet fascinatingly complex girls, who come together to form a unique friendship, but ultimately descends into toxicity. All the while upholding the moral importance of believing in yourself, even if your closest ones tell you otherwise.
Keeping the nature of the film in mind, there is no doubt that writer/director Zoe Lister-Jones had quite the difficult task in hand, where she had to satisfy fans of the original, as well as create a stand-alone experience for a new audience. In my opinion, the end result is quite a mixed experience.
While the film is completely watchable, it is also hard to nag away the feeling, throughout its entire 90 minute run time, that how it could have been so much better. Though the film is constant with its predecessor, as it manages to stand on its own feet, even if you ignore a third-act twist that felt both selfishly satisfying and completely unnecessary, and allows itself to take its own form and tell its own story, there just isn’t enough dramatic conflict to turn it into anything more than a pleasant series of scenes with some unearned bigger moments.
The story follows Lily (Cailee Spaeny), who has just had her life uprooted by her mum, Helen (Michelle Monaghan), as they have moved across the country to live with Eunice’s long-distance boyfriend Adam (David Duchovny), a motivational speaker for men, and his three sons. Though things start off smoothly, Lily remains apprehensive about all this newness, mainly because she’s not quite used to having friends. And her worst fears are soon confirmed when things don’t get off to the best start; she bleeds through her jeans on her first day of school, prompting a bully named Timmy (Nicholas Galitzine) to embarrass her in front of the class.
However, the humiliating moment also brings her in the attention of Lourdes (Zoey Luna), Tabby (Lovie Simone) and Frankie (Gideon Adlon), three young witches, who have been desperately trying and failing to make their after-school spells work, leading them to the conclusion that they need a fourth witch to complete their circle. With Lily showing natural flair for the craft, the four instantly becoming a tight group, but trouble begins to sneak in when their simple acts of magic graduates to more ambitious sorcery.
Right off the bat, the setup and the first half is totally promising; it calls back to its source material just enough to make you feel a little warm and fuzzy and excited about what kind of twist they might put on things before the final act kicks in. Like its predecessor, here too the coven are the odd ones out at school, and represent anyone who has been bullied or just struggled to fit in. With writer/director Zoe Lister-Jones doubling down on the familiar messages about how it is okay to be different, but with a list a twist in wordings – Your difference is your power.
However, the major difference in the reboot/sequel is that the witches are actually quite decent people, and use their powers in gentler ways. Like they cast a spell on toxic masculinity bearing bully into their highest self, which results in the subject being woke into a complete different person. A person who ends up preferring to hang with the girls and shelling out his secrets, instead of cruel misogyny.
Also this time around there is no downfall for this group of friends. There’s no jealousy and they don’t covet each other’s gifts. They aren’t bonded because they are weirdos; they’re weirdos who are also genuinely bonded. If they are going to go down, they’ll go down together.
Unfortunately, the film never lives up to its true potential. Instead feeling quite rushed, never quite allowing itself to get there. Though it takes no time at all for the group to get together, and there is an utter lack of dramatic conflict. Because we don’t get to spend enough time with the characters prior and see them grow together, the montage that sees them play with their new powers feels unearned and anticlimactic.
The stakes don’t feel nearly as high as they should because they’re never given the chance to climb whatsoever. Even the reveal of the villain is a snooze fest, because we never get the chance to see him do more than one super creepy act.
The film ends with a heap of unanswered questions, but like I said, I’m rooting for this one because, despite its flaws, it also has something valuable to say. For every plot misstep, there’s a choice that I applaud. If 1996 film was about finding the individual strength to stand against your tribe, then the 2020 is about standing with your tribe against the systemic injustices that threaten you all. It’s about the importance of allies and being believed, and strength in numbers.
Performance wise, up-and-coming stars Cailee Spaeny, Lovie Simone, Gideon Adlon and Zoey Luna make for compelling solid leads, with Nicholas Galitzine surprisingly pulling in a surprising good act. David Duchovny seems uninterested throughout, while in supporting roles, Michelle Monaghan, Julian Grey, Charles Vandervaart, and Donald MacLean Jr. are alright. On the whole, ‘The Craft: Legacy’ is a watchable sequel that never realizes its true potential and ends up being much softer than its predecessor.
Directed – Zoe Lister-Jones
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 90 minutes