The new take on The Craft lands in UK cinemas – and it’s got plenty going on within it, that makes it really worth a watch.
File this one on the list of projects that – when first announced – had the fans of the original taking a deep breath. The Craft: Legacy is the follow-up and reboot of sorts to the 1996 cult hit The Craft. That original movie followed a quartet of high school girls brought together by witchcraft, and the harnessing of its power for personal reasons. The new movie very much follows the same path of that, isn’t entirely independent of the original, and has much to say.
This time, we meet Cailee Spaeny as Lily, moving into a new area with her mum, Michelle Monaghan, and her stepdad, David Duchovny. Her first day at her new school goes badly, and is only rescued by three girls in her class: Frankie (Gideon Adlon), Tabby (Lovie Simone) and Lourdes (Zoey Luna). But it soon becomes clear, and I don’t think this is giving very much of the game away at all, that the core four all have witchcraft in common.
Penned by Zoe Lister-Jones, who directs as well, what The Craft: Legacy then does is use its genre and horror cloaking to have all sorts of conversations about high school and teen life. It’s not the first to do it, certainly, and you don’t have to look hard for touchpoints. But there’s a very clear and appreciated drive to make The Craft: Legacy exist for a reason. As such, the film weaves in chats about sexuality, fitting in, menstruation, projection, bullying and power, all within the clothes of what’s billed as a supernatural horror.
What’s more, I’d argue it’s absolutely at its best and most confident when having those chats. They’re woven into the fabric of the film, so whilst they’re near the surface, Lister-Jones is hardly bashing you over the head with them. But she is addressing these subjects, and her film doesn’t blink as it stares them down. Power in its many forms is a beating heart of the story.
Huge credit to the young cast too. In particular, Spaeny is believable, empathetic and easy to root for in what’s effectively the lead role of the film. I really think Gideon Adlon – seen a year or two back burning up the screen in the sublime Blockers – is a talent and a half too, and there’s nothing in The Craft: Legacy to dissuade me from that.
What’s less effective, but still fun about the film, is the overarching narrative to it that inevitably comes to a head with a mix of turns as the movie hits its final act. Only then did I feel it was really trying to fit what perception says a film like this should be. I enjoyed quite happily the denouement, but contrasted with what had come before, I found it the less interesting part of the movie by distance.
A word of acknowledgement too for David Duchovny, ghosting into his role as Lily’s stepdad. He’s a patriarchal figure and then some, playing an author of a book about masculinity and imposing strict rules and boundaries on his own sons. Playing against him, the brilliant Monaghan has by far the less showy role, but her understated examination of a mother in a new relationship torn between differing loyalties is not without merit. It’s just a little more sidelined in the film, yet I can also see that may be the point.
The last time Sony pressed ahead with a remake/reimagining/belated sequel/whatever of one of its older horror-tinged properties, we got the vacuous Flatliners film in 2017. Thankfully, The Craft: Legacy nimbly side-steps many of the errors that particular production made, and in Lister-Jones, it feels like it has a filmmaker who’s given this particular movie both a voice and a reason for being.
There’s every sporting chance – not least given that the film is now debuting on video on demand platforms – that The Craft: Legacy will follow the path of the original movie. That it’ll get a small, appreciative audience now, and really find its fanbase over a longer period of time. But I suspect it will find those fans, and whilst perhaps it’s not a drop everything recommendation as a horror or genre flick per se, it’s very much worth seeking out for what it manages to do whilst wearing those particularly stylish clothes.
Thank you for visiting! If you’d like to support our attempts to make a non-clickbaity movie website:
Buy our Film Stories and Film Stories Junior print magazines here.
Become a Patron here.