I mentioned in my previous post that I watch a lot of crappy horror films in October. The Craft is one of those films. This supernatural teen horror film disappoints on almost every imaginable level and will probably be remembered mostly because Neve Campbell is in it, though she plays a somewhat limited role in the film. Having said that though, I could see how this could become a guilty pleasure for some as I was not at a complete loss for entertainment.
The Craft was directed by Andrew Fleming (Dick, Hamlet 2) and stars Robin Tunney (End of Days, Vertical Limit). It was released in 1996 amongst a seemingly endless array of films that would collectively become known as “Teen Screams”—think Scream (1996), I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997), The Faculty (1998) and Urban Legend (1998).
The film revolves around Sarah (Robin Tunney), a troubled youth, seemingly oblivious to her supernatural powers and obvious witchness. She has just relocated from Northern California to Southern California but there’s little in the way of an adjustment period at her new school as she quickly meets the resident hottie, Chris (Skeet Ulrich) and catches the attention of three “angry at the world” type girls—Bonnie (Neve Campbell), Nancy (Fairuza Balk) and Rochelle (Rachel True). As it turns out, they are interested in witchcraft and make no effort to hide it.
The girls decide that Sarah is quite obviously the 4th member of their coven and invite her out on the town for a night of typical high school shenanigans like stealing from a boutique full of witch stuff… Shortly after this, Sarah is harassed by a homeless man who is subsequently struck by a car, which naturally, the four girls attribute to their witch powers, therefore solidifying their undeniable bond to one another.
Following this unforgettable bonding experience, Sarah ends up on the rooftop with the aforementioned Chris. There is no seguing in to this scene… It just happens and we, as viewers are forced to accept it. I think this is the aspect that bothered me most about the film. It shifted gears so much from attempting to be dark and twisted to being light and fluffy in tone. Even the characters themselves go from being cold-hearted bitches to regular self-loathing teenagers and back again in a split second.
In fact, the only character that is really strong is Nancy. Fairuza Balk gives the best performance of the film—in that she perfectly portrays the psychotic, overly scary and maniacal character that is Nancy. Her backstory is nice and you can understand her need to be different or lash out against the norms of society or whatever. Aside from her though, we know very little about Sarah, who is supposedly the star of the movie. Bonnie has the physical scars and groundwork for having some depth as a character, but it gets brushed aside. Rochelle has little to go on, other than the fact that she is black and one of the school bullies calls her out on it. (That may seem shallow, but I find it to be a poor excuse for turning to witchcraft…)
After each casting spells/making wishes for some part of their lives to be better, naturally everything starts going right for the girls. It becomes a lesson in “be careful what you wish for.” The wise old sage aka the witch boutique shop woman warned them!
From there it simply becomes a huge mess of overblown spells involving rats and snakes and mice and cockroaches with Sarah and Nancy battling each other for witch supremacy. Expect extreme wind, thunder and lightning as each tries to “invoke the spirit” better than the other.
Memorable moments of the film include the light as a feather, stiff as a board scene (spoiler alert…she floats), Nancy walking on top of the ocean (an obvious indicator of being a witch—ask anyone from Salem, MA circa 1692) and Nancy’s pointed toes sliding across the floor as she attacks Chris in an all too common vengeful fit of rage.
Now, believe it or not, I did do some research on witchcraft (while I was at work…I hope no one actually checks our internet history) and the film is about as well-versed in witchcraft as a movie of this sort (again a supernatural teen horror film) can be. On a side note here…did you know that Saudi Arabia, India and parts of Africa, to this day, still condemn, torture and kill women, men and CHILDREN suspected of witchcraft. We’re not talking about a few sporadic cases here and there folks—we’re talking hundreds, each year. Crazy right?
Anyway, the film is obviously a testament to the young girls’ social stature as outcasts. Throughout history, cultures have always feared what they do not understand. These girls are untouchable at their school simply because of the way they dress, act and flat out don’t give a shit. Does that make them witches? Well in this film, yes. Yes it does. I think the film also attempts to appeal to the testosterone drowned senses of teenage boys. After all these girls aren’t the pointy nosed, wart-covered witches that we’re used to seeing on the Halloween cardboard decorations.
All in all, while the film is entertaining at times and downright silly at others, don’t go in to this movie expecting any sort of reverential spiritual awakening. Expect a Neve Campbell movie…