Sarah’s (Robin Tunney) family moves from San Francisco to Los Angeles and the troubled teen is starting a new school. She meets a group of jerk dudes led by Chris (Skeet Ulrich) who immediately hits on her. She gets warned away by a misfit group of girls—Bonnie (Neve Campbell), Nancy (Fairuza Balk), and Rochelle (Rachel True)—who turn out to be witches, looking for their fourth member. Sarah is a bit of a natural witch and soon falls in with them. Together, they bond and grow close, practicing magic and becoming good friends. They work innocent spells at first, like casting a love spell on Chris that makes him unable to do anything but obsess over Sarah; a spell on the racist high school rival of Rochelle, making her hair fall out; a spell to heal Bonnie’s burned back; and a spell to bring riches to Nancy. All of them work, but they bring consequences. After a time, the power begins to corrupt the girls and they turn dark and more dangerous. Soon they turn against Sarah and come for her blood. Can Sarah defeat her former friends or will she succumb to their magicks?
It’s been a long time since I revisited The Craft, and since a sequel is on the horizon, I thought it would be good to give it another viewing. As I remember, I always really liked this movie a lot but felt it fell flat towards the end. The build-up was great but the payoff was a little generic. I also always bemoaned the fact that the filmmakers used witchcraft as a cautionary tale. “See what happens when you dabble in things you shouldn’t?” Did these observations hold up? Yes and no. Yes, the movie does kind of get generic at the end. The transformation of the awkward gals into a cool, weirdo gang is awesome and exciting, but the transition from that to dangerous bitches happens too fast. It’s hard to believe they would turn on Sarah so quickly and in such a violent way. The final battle at the end is good, no doubt, but again, it feels like it comes on too fast and the girls are suddenly way powerful. Still, it’s entertaining and it’s a minor complaint. As far as the “cautionary tale” aspect goes, I see now more fully that it’s a warning against unexamined power and what that lack of control and awareness can do to you, not a judgement on witchcraft itself. It could have been anything, really. The end celebrates Sarah’s witchyness, but only because she is balanced with it. So, fair enough. One thing that did occur to me, that left me feeling slightly uneasy, was the inference that, when Chris attempts to rape Sarah, she “has it coming.” After all, she put a spell on him to make him so crazy “he can’t help himself.” I get that it’s the consequence of actions she shouldn’t have taken, but it creeps along the lines of “she was asking for it” and “look how she was dressed” a little too much. Also, it was interesting to note the casual misogyny of the male characters (and the 90s in general); it was shocking but pointed, and it was almost even worse that everyone was so accepting of it. I cannot imagine some guy calling a girl a “snail trail” out loud in a classroom today without getting berated. But it was okay then, apparently. One more note: Fairuza Balk rules.
Overall, The Craft still holds up. It’s a fun and thrilling ride, with great characters that you really root for. If you’ve ever been a misfit or an outcast, these gals will be your instant new best friends. Their bonding, their discovery of the power within themselves and what they can do with it, are wonderful feminist moments that are both uplifting and empowering. For that alone this movie is a great one. But then you throw the action and intrigue and darkness and terror in and yes, you got yourself a real winner. I’m looking forward to what they do with the “sequel.” This one come Highly Recommended.