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Wayback Wednesday: The Craft (1996)

90 minutes of resting witchface.

If there’s anything worse than an unnecessary sequel decades after a movie’s release, it’s a stand-alone sequel that features none of the original cast and is more or less a rip-off of the original. The Craft: Legacy (2020) was released today and after seeing the trailer, I can safely say that my interest level is at an absolute zero. It just looks throughly unoriginal and not at all in keeping with the original’s dark tone. However, my interest in the original movie, The Craft (1996), has been at a 10 for a long time now. I mean, anything that involves witches, witchcraft, or the witch aesthetic has my full and undivided attention. The Craft did not disappoint. An enchanting teen movie that more than earns its cult status, this movie had me wanting to join my local coven ASAP. 

Credit: / Columbia Pictures

The Craft follows a group of outcast teenage girls at a Los Angeles high school who practice witchcraft and form their own coven. When Sarah, a new student with a natural talent for magic shows up, the girls accept her as one of their own and increase their power to achieve their hearts desires. But the young witches soon learn that magic always comes with a grim price. 

In a lot of ways, The Craft reminds me of Practical Magic (1998). By the way, check out my review for that movie, here. Both are 90s movies about witches bound by sisterhood, both explore how witchcraft is much more related to nature rather than demonic forces, both pit a good witch against a mortal influenced by darkness, and both feature awesome houses you’d want to live in. In fact, if you like Practical Magic at all, I’d strongly recommend you check this movie out. That being said, The Craft differs quite greatly from the Sandra Bullock classic that lies at the top of my viewing list every October. It’s much, much, darker in tone. I’d even go as far as to say that it’s low-key a horror movie mashed up with a teen fantasy. It’s very Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018 – present). While the idea of a show about teen witches is nothing new, I’m honestly surprised that The Craft has never been adapted into a TV series. It has all the elements to make a fun CW drama: Teen angst, witchy vibes, vibrant characters, and girl power? CW, I promise you the money will come rolling in. 

The perfect description for The Craft would be “spooky fun.” It’s an entertaining blend of horror and teen drama that manages to creep you out but also endear you to this group of characters. There were a handful of times where a shiver went down my spine, and a handful of times that I was like, “awww, look at them standing by each other’s side and becoming true friends!” The movie starts off pretty tame with how they use their witchcraft to put right the injustices in their own lives, and to watch their powers grow is so cool and interesting to watch. I was having fun but I remember thinking to myself, “I do hope it gets a little scarier soon.” Oh boy, was my call to action answered.

The Craft gets DARK. We’re talking murdered parents, a house dripping with creepy crawlies, an obsessed lover stalking Sarah through the woods, a deranged man carrying snakes, and an ending that is mischievously twisted. Also extremely satisfying. Let’s just say that the wicked are punished, the fabulous prevail, and you’re left simultaneously proud of the movie for wrapping things up so well, and kind of wishing there had been a sequel. You know, an actual one with the real cast. Not this nonsense with none of the original characters. Then again, knowing that this is a self-contained, one-off story certainly adds to the charm of The Craft, its uniqueness being one of the factors that makes it such a resilient and beloved cult movie. 

A majority of the charm though undoubtedly comes from the four actresses who play the witches. Robin Tunney, Rachel True, Neve Campbell and Fairuza Balk star as Sarah, Rochelle, Bonnie, and Nancy respectively, a coven that is utterly convincing in both their sincerity, and their spook. Tunney and True are perfectly fine, but it’s really Campbell and Balk who steal the show. First of all, Neve Campbell is a horror icon. Don’t believe me? Check out my review for Scream (1996), here. In The Craft she gets to play the complete opposite of the fearless Sidney Prescott, playing the shy, reserved Bonnie effortlessly. Campbell will convince you of her sweet side, and then on a dime flip the script and dive head first into the wickedness that constantly entices these girls.

If we’re talking about wicked witches though, we HAVE to discuss Fairuza Balk. Holy shit is this a wonderful performance. The trust star of the movie, Balk is bewitching to watch. She so flawlessly embodies someone you would never want to mess with. Someone who’s so intimidating in both look and attitude that you’d instantly move away from her on the bus. As the power-hungry Nancy, Balk steals every scene and watching her descent into evil is remarkable to witness. What I loved about the writing of these characters is that you get a really solid understanding of why each of them become desperate for magic to change their lives. The movie is great at showing how tempting magic can be and how drastic the consequences will inevitably be. Then throwing in a healthy dose of sisterhood, eerie thunderstorms, and a wardrobe of amazing all-black ensembles, and you’ve got a great movie that’s perfect to watch over and over again. 

Ooky and spooky, The Craft is a perfect choice for viewing on Halloween night. There are just enough scares and just enough teen shenanigans to ensure a frighteningly fun movie night. I feel like the best way to watch this movie is to light a bunch of candles, turn off all the lights, grab a bottle of wine, and curl up on the couch with a bowl of Halloween candy. Oh, and if you have an all-black ensemble that’s super comfortable, definitely put that on. Look, if you’re gonna be a witch, an all-black lounging outfit is absolutely necessary.

Have you seen The Craft? What are your favourite Halloween movies?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

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