This blog is dark and full of spoilers. Scroll carefully.
I must first admit, I let this 2020 continuation of the cult favorite The Craft simmer on Amazon Prime until a while after Halloween, just to lower the hype level and be able to watch it with a little more objectivity from the initial reviews that I'd read. TikTok gave me mixed impressions, because anyone who has anything to do with witchcraft, the occult, paranormal or the 1990's was excited to see how this movie turned out, and thus reacted immediately in 60 second videos.
In a sweeping, overall way, the film is well made; the antagonists are cleverly placed, the four main characters have an excellent cohesion on screen and the story unfolds to a concise ending with a material that makes a clean route to another sequel. But before I get ahead of myself, let's talk about these new witches and the periphery of classmates and family members around them.
There's a new foursome of teenage girls who find each other much the same way as Sarah Bailey did, with a move to a new town. This time, Lily and her mother move in with 3 brothers and a step-father, her mom's new beau and his sons who somehow, weren't introduced to each other previously during this age of Skype, Zoom, and Facetime that dominates current culture. We're introduced to the brothers with the main character upon her arrival to this new town and immediate move-in. And unfortunately, we don't get too much more depth to them beyond some very uncomfortable scenes with their father.
Within a class period of the first day of school, the witches come together, find out Lily is powerful in a way that could complete their coven, and over the course of a few days, speak telepathically to help get her out of detention. They embark on a ritual in the forest, which we saw in the first movie, with a slightly different effect. This is where it begins to head into CW network territory rather than Blumhouse. The magic kicks into high gear when the four of them are together and understand and commit to their coven, but on screen that translates unbelievably, or is portrayed too simply.
There's only one or two scenes of altar setups, and with those we're not given much ritual or item usage, or referencing the occult with any depth. I had expected it after hearing about how a practicing Wiccan was on set and assisted with the screenplay. Their reactions to the magic reflect more of a homecoming game touchdown than a wide array of emotion that would be expected for what they're capable of. As for the personal journey of each girl that was a hallmark of the original, trans and racial issues aren't given too much depth. The 2020 counterpart to Skeet Ulrich's Chris, now portrayed as sexist, obnoxious Tim, follows a different journey, but ends up the same way.
Tim is both the bully and sexual interest of Lily, and becomes affected by the girls' magic in a way that brings him not to his knees for the main character, but to his most woke self. He ends up admitting to having hooked up with one of Lily's brothers, but is far too afraid to address it in any way. While this is a great storyline and character development to include, the film cuts that opportunity short.
As for the magic, each element is represented in the four of the girls, but this time their abilities are far more visible with CGI. The mid-90's had Fairuza Balk walking on the ocean's surface fairly believably for the graphics that existed then, but 2020's Cailee Spaeny, Gideon Adlon, Lovie Simone and Zoey Luna have rainbow-bright auras. Their powers become more fantastically visual rather than implied as the film goes on.
I *do* love the inclusion of characters with diverse backgrounds, and I *do* love the bond and friendship surrounding these characters throughout nearly the entire film, but the young characters and actors themselves, make it slightly difficult to immerse myself into their world. As an elder millennial, I'd have loved to see some college aged witchcraft as the new iteration. Considering the 25 year gap between the two movies, it may be difficult not to aim young and grab a new generation, but it still feels like the production is aimed at grade schoolers without much to bring the original Craft Cult to the table.
The feminist vision of Zoe Lister-Jones's film offers viewers a reflection of current events, but the last 20 minutes seemed to want to cram hours of events and significant moments into a short runtime. There's not a very well-defined passage of time throughout the film, and the ending is a fast-paced (spoiler time) and unfleshed resolution.
Lily's stepfather is a hyper-masculine character played by David Duchovny. As much of an X-Files fan as I am, I am not much of a fan of his outside that pivotal role. He could have exhibited toxic traits like control and victim shaming with far more subtlety: coded insults in conversations directed at one person, or dissuading Lily's mother of her explanation of events that lead to detention so as to undermine belief and trust in Lily. Instead, Duchovny acts implausibly cruel or just over the top. There is an unnecessary abundance of toxic masculinity in Duchovny's performance and in the script, and to his final scene, his unbelievability was the real victim of his power-hungry witch-hating character.
The final confrontation looked improbable and slow, and relied again on CGI to give unnecessary glamor to the magic. It ripped itself fully away from symbolism and the organic methodology the original movie employed so easily. Showing supernatural powers applied to the world around the witches, in this case a forest, their most natural element to work in (I appreciate that), to defeat someone physically, shouldn't need to include colorful bursts and sparkles.
I waited several minutes for the earth-based witch to conjure roots from the ground, or snakes to strangle her enemy with, but no such luck. The film is far more PG13 than R, and lacks any real scares or emotional lows that turn into the impassioned, impulsive revenge that teenagers would act on. Lily has 3 stepbrothers suffering at home under the same cruel, cult-style masculinity of their father, so with an ending that defies all reality for embellishment a la Supernatural, to have zero follow up leaves the plot with a few holes.
Wrapped into the last quarter of the film is a discovery about Lily that seemingly acts as the way to include a cameo from an original witch in the final frame. It doesn't necessarily tie everything together, but it ties right to the higher power of Manon again, and inclusion of the same system of magic I'd hoped to see. Although it looks like Zoe Lister-Jones had to write in a major plot point at the last minute for the screenplay and the audience to arrive at the same place, it did come off as a surprise.
The Craft: Legacy is a film that tries to depart from the original for a Gen Z version of itself, but weaves its way along the same story as the original, complete with a sleepover featuring Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board. It gives The Craft not so much an homage, but instead uses it as a template with many parallel scenes that ultimately leave the movie feeling a little deflated and unfinished. The cultural and societal inclusion is astounding, but the magic, overall, is not.
I score it at a 6.5/10. 30 more minutes and some deeply emotional or disturbing introspection from the characters, some organization and magical abilities sans CGI would have brought this score up. I liked the movie, but I didn't love it, and when it comes to picking between Legacy or the original, I'll probably find myself watching the original.
Thanks for reading,