PLOT: A group of outcasts form a witches’ coven in this sequel/reimagining of the cult classic THE CRAFT.
REVIEW: THE CRAFT was a surprise treat. Coming out the same year as SCREAM – both featuring Neve Campbell and Skeet Ulrich in the cast – the Andrew Fleming teen thriller impressed impressed us all as a spooky little feature. Since then, this groovy flick about witches has earned a cult following. And now, we have something of a continuation with THE CRAFT: LEGACY. While it may appear to be a reimaging in many ways, the Zoe Lister-Jones directed film continues the tale of teenage girls discovering their magical powers. While the first half of this new approach feels more like a remake, the last half finds another story to tell. Is this modern version of teen screams on the level of the wildly entertaining original? Let’s see if the elements of air, fire, water, and Earth all bind together to make for a worthy continuation.
Cailee Spaeny is Lily, a young outcast who is starting a new chapter in her life. Her loving mother (Michelle Monaghan) has a new boyfriend named Adam (David Duchovny), and dear old mom has made the decision to move in with him and his three sons. Things are already problematic as Adam has a very different way of disciplining his children, one that is far more strict than what Lily’s mother would use. However, Lily finds solace in a new group of friends (Zoey Luna, Lovie Simone, and Gideon Adlon). The foursome soon discovers that together, they can create real magic, including pushing a few people around and turning a crude classmate Timmy (Nicholas Galitzine) into a kindhearted and protective friend. However, not all is right in the world as somebody may have issues with the magical powers they possess.
While watching THE CRAFT: LEGACY, I found myself satisfyingly entertained for a good portion of what was on display. Aside from the addition of David Duchovny and his clan, there is certainly a familiarity with the original. And frankly, the pacing and energy moved so quickly that I noticed it was nearly over before realizing that it was about to wrap up. The witchcraft used is more playful and not as dark as in the first film, and the villain of the piece has changed drastically. While it is entertaining thanks to the cast, it is impossibly clear who the main antagonist is and perhaps even the motive for their actions. And once the final battle does come, it’s an unusually brief and uneventful finish. By the anticlimactic finish, it was curious that the film runs less than 90 minutes. A few times, the viewer may feel like they’re missing elements to make this a fully satisfying feature film.
Cailee Spaeny, who replaces Robin Tunney as the lead, is a fantastic choice. The young actress has already had an impressive career with her work in BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE, PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING, and the series Devs. Spaeny is terrific here as a young girl dealing with a problematic new family and with the challenges of a new school. Her performance, as well as her witchy co-stars, helped give this flick a little energy and momentum. Unfortunately, once the realization hits that the final act is about to take place, and not much has transpired aside from a few spells, it’s a bit of a letdown. Even still, the rest of the cast is solid. It was nice to see Michelle Monaghan and David Duchovny fill a couple of adult roles, but their characters are woefully underwritten. Especially true since it’s clear what each represents to Lily. To go into more detail may give too much away, but you’ll likely figure it all out well before the film does.
When the recent remake of BLACK CHRISTMAS came out, some fans connected to its themes of girls fighting back against their oppressors. However, most critics weren’t fond of its not so subtle messages. LEGACY manages to tackle these similar thematic ideas yet without the ridiculously ham-fisted approach. Even when the evil plans of the villain is exposed, it feels a bit more personal as opposed to a ridiculous and grand statement. Even with the blatantly obvious villain and the uneven finale, THE CRAFT: LEGACY is sure to please a particular viewing audience, one that is decidedly young and female.
THE CRAFT: LEGACY is fine. It would have been nice to see an edgier take on this story, as the first film happened to have an R rating, and this does not. There’s an early moment where one of the girls admits to loving TWILIGHT, and in many ways, this new direction for THE CRAFT fits perfectly into a world where Edward and Bella are still totally rad for young women. Compared to the sparkling vampires, the acting here is far better, and there’s enough to appreciate, even if it’s on a superficial level. And if you wait until the final scene, fans of the original film will get a fun connection that appears to guarantee a sequel if the film’s a success. While it’s not the most impressive LEGACY to leave, the new witch flick has a bit of charm and is likely to find an audience with a younger crowd.