If you’re a certain type of moviegoer of a certain age, you definitely remember The Craft, the 1996 tale of a teen coven who turn the tables on the high school d-bags who torment them. For a lot of (mostly but not exclusively) young women who caught this cult horror movie during their formative years, it’s what the kids call a seminal text — a misfit-sisterhood celebration with a distinctly campy Hot Topic vibe and a soundtrack that couldn’t be more mid-’90s. (Letters to Cleo! Julianna Hatfield! Portishead! Tripping Daisy!!!) It helped set Neve Campbell up for a post-Party of Five film career, and will forever enshrine the frustratingly underrated Fairuza Balk as a mall-goth icon. We have no concrete intel on exactly how many sleepover Oujia-board seances or Wiccan conversions the film’s caused, but we’re willing to bet it’s somewhere in the triple-digit range.
And given the notion that in the future, all recognizable intellectual properties and potential franchises will be rebooted for 15 minutes, a Craft 2.0 for today’s young square pegs feels like it’s a no-brainer proposition. Time will tell whether this belated revival/sequel/”continuation” is as beloved as the outsider original, though we can say that The Craft: Legacy (now available on VOD) feels like a bit of a pale copy regardless. The basic spell remains the same, updated for the age of inclusivity, toxic masculinity and Princess Nokia. The magic, however, is M.I.A.
Once again, a trio of young women — Frankie (Gideon Adlon, daughter of Pamela), Tabby (Selah and the Spades‘ Lovie Simone), and Lourdes (trans actor Zoe Luna) — dabble in the dark arts yet find they need a fourth to make it work. Once again, a new girl comes to town, in the form of the pixie-haired Lily (Cailee Spaeny). She’s been forced to relocate due to the fact that her mom, Helen (Michelle Monaghan), is moving in with a new boyfriend. He’s Adam (David Duchovny), not coincidentally named after the first man, and in addition to being a bestselling author on “the crisis at the heart of masculinity,” this too-good-to-be-true gent is a walking field of red flags. On Lily’s first day of school, she suffers a mortifying public humiliation that doubles as a nod to the opening scene of Carrie. But the three wouldbe witches sense a kindred spirit in their midst; that vaguely Pagan-looking necklace hints that this may be the the one they’re searching for. Soon, the resident jock bully (Nicholas Galitzine) has mysteriously turned into a sensitive male namechecking heteronormativity, a hallway homophobe gets his windbreaker turned into a rainbow flag and slut-shaming graffiti gets erased off a locker courtesy of a flaming finger.
Yes, there is a connection to the original — it ain’t subtitled Legacy for nothing, people. And one of The Craft‘s most famous lines gets a nice, clever repeat here (think creepy bus driver). But otherwise, this attempt to revamp the giddy thrills, chills and empowerment drills of the original feels like a long diminishing return. Writer-director Zoe Lister-Jones (Band Aid) clearly has a fondness for the 1.0 version, and bringing back this story in a moment when women’s rights are in danger of being rolled back a few dozen decades — and “men’s rights” movements increasingly feel like gossamer-thin facades for blatant, violent misogyny — couldn’t be more timely.
It’s just that, current references and contemporary concerns aside, this lacks anything resembling a spark. The cast feels oddly underused, especially Adlon and Simone; the former’s comic turn in Blockers and the latter’s work in Selah suggests they can do more than they’re being asked of here. Even the small attempts at fan service, like reprising the original foursome’s fearsome strut, seems like a half-hearted gesture. Legacy doesn’t rely simply on ’90s nostalgia, thank goddess. Yet it also doesn’t make you feel like its worth dusting off the franchise name, either. Should a new generation find a sense of sorority in its 2020 supernatural clapback, we salute you. Everyone else may feel like they’ve just downed a witches’ brew that tastes a lot like weak tea.