- The Craft: Legacy
- Written and directed by Zoe Lister-Jones
- Starring Cailee Spaeny, Michelle Monaghan and David Duchovny
- Classification PG; 97 minutes
For a certain demographic of elder millennials, no adolescence was complete without a weekly viewing of the feminist cult movie The Craft. The 1996 teen horror-drama – about a coven of adolescent outcasts (played by Neve Campbell, Fairuza Balk, Robin Tunney and Rachel True) who tap into their blossoming Wiccan powers to wreak havoc on their classmates, crushes and, eventually, each other – was as essential to the teen-girl sleepover as stuffed-crust pizza, communing with the dead on a Ouija board or making out with a poster of Josh Hartnett. Certain women wouldn’t have come of age without it. The Hulu/CBC Gem series Pen15 devotes an entire episode in its second season to its dorky heroines wanting to become witches after watching the film.
Twenty-four years later, The Craft: Legacy has risen again. Written and directed by mumblecore fixture Zoe Lister-Jones (with an all-female crew behind the scenes), this spiritual sequel to the original movie (there’s a tenuous link with a brief cameo by Balk) follows a similar template but updates it for a young, media-literate audience.
The first hour is a sluggish, though delightful, casual hangout movie about four young women finding their power who turn the most hateful guy in their grade into the woke bae of their dreams through witchcraft. Lister-Jones’s savvy, entertaining script has one-liners about transgender rights activist Janet Mock, and the villain is David Duchovny playing a Jordan Peterson-esque men’s-rights idealogue. Sadly, it then goes totally haywire, with a third act trading in maudlin melodrama, climaxing in a cheap and poorly directed supernatural battle between the sexes, turning what initially felt like a stone-cold classic into Twilight: Special Witch Edition.
Lily (Pacific Rim: Uprising’s Cailee Spaeny) is a friendless outcast (we know because she has a pixie cut) who has unhappily moved to a new city because her mom (Michelle Monaghan) has just fallen in love with the mysterious Andrew (David Duchovny), a guy who holds “men’s sensitivity seminars” in his living room and really wants Lily to feel at home with him and his three hateful teenage sons. The next day at her new school, Lily gets her period in class, bleeding through her jeans and onto the floor. An awful boy named Timmy (Nicholas Galitzine) humiliates her, and she flees for the bathroom. But for three other teenage girls in the classroom (played by Blockers’s Gideon Adlon, Lovie Simone and transgender actress Zoey Luna), this is a sign from the beyond. You see, they are aspiring witches, and they are looking for a fourth to join their coven.
The original Craft used visceral images of body horror as a metaphor for the psychological warfare inherit in girl-on-girl bullying – a popular girl/horrible racist loses all her hair in the shower in one memorable sequence, as another witch forces visions of slashed wrists and third-degree burns onto her friends and snakes into the sink. Those witches flew through the air and actually seemed capable of killing each other, not just “forgetting” to tag someone in an Instagram post.
Beneath the cheesy ’90s facade of the original film (which was written and directed by men) was a potent story about the need for teenage girls, who have always felt alone during the most viscerally humiliating time of their lives, to step into their power and connect to each other. That’s why it became such a staple of teen girl sleepovers; women need to believe that they are powerful, even if it means consuming a few eyes of newt to get there.
In The Craft: Legacy’s best sequence, we see our new Gen-Z coven testing the limits of their powers and growing more and more confident. They levitate, stop time and bedazzle each other with crystals before going out to a party. They are feeling themselves. Yet Lister-Jones’s story never progresses beyond a glossary summation of who these four witches are, as the story now focuses all its energy on Timmy, who they have transformed from jerk to a self-aware feminist through a special spell.
This highly anticipated sequel to one of the few (even somewhat) feminist movies of the ’90s becomes entirely a story about the damming pressures of toxic masculinity. It takes four teenage girls to stop one MRA from lightly, telekinetically shoving everyone. Worse yet, the coven of The Craft: Legacy are far too kind and self-aware to cause any havoc. (After Lily casts a love spell to make Timmy want to date her, the other witches bind themselves and give her a lecture on how she should use her power more responsibly and think about consent.)
But if the scariest thing to you is David Duchovny in a tight black T-shirt lecturing a group of 15-year-old women about how men need to take back their power, then The Craft: Legacy is a success.
The Craft: Legacy is available digitally on-demand starting Oct. 28
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