It would be easy, too easy, honestly, to dismiss the latest Blumhouse Productions’ film as The Craft: Part Duh.
Essentially a direct sequel to 1996’s beloved Goth-girl-witchfest, which boasted a classic soundtrack and elevated star Fairuza Balk to horror icon status, The Craft: Legacy plays more like an alternative timeline version of its predecessor where four high school witches meet cute, band together, master the dark arts, celebrate girl power and battle another iconic actor in possibly his most ridiculous role yet.
Writer-director Zoe Lister-Jones, whose resume to date would in no way suggest she’s the right fit for a high-profile, PG-13 horror movie, does a surprisingly good job in taking huge chunks of The Craft and repurposing them for our current age, a time when many women are directing their collective rage at an overbearing, obsolete patriarchy that keeps trying to make them behave like subservient footstools.
It wasn’t cool in 1996 to focus on feelings and shit. The decade of grunge and alt-everything was largely focused on sticking its thumb in the eye of authority.
If you’ve seen The Craft, you know what to expect. New girl Lily (Cailee Spaeny) moves with her mom to a new town to live with her soon-to-be stepfather (David Duchovny), who is raising three sons on his own. She quickly meets Tabby (Lovie Simone), Frankie (Gideon Adlon) and Lourdes (Zoey Luna), a trio of burgeoning witches desperate to find a fourth member to complete their coven.
Lily has flashes of witch-y power, but she has no idea what’s going on. Her “mom” (Michelle Monaghan) has raised her to believe her father abandoned her at birth. There’s more to the story.
Lister-Jones, quite quickly, shepherds the coven through a montage of greatest Craft hits: The group meets in a forest, instead of the beach, to summon their elemental powers. It gathers in a bedroom to re-enact the ‘light as a feather, stiff as a board’ levitation scene. It uses magic to transform a high school bully, Timmy (Nicholas Galitzine), into a social rights warrior.
Before you know it, Tabby can make fire bolts shoot from her fingertips, Lourdes can conjure beauty makeup and Lily can cast a love spell.
The problem is, you’ve seen all this before.
In a remake, the spells have to be bigger, more impactful than before, or better yet, darker and more primal to showcase how a new spell-caster might dig back into ancestral lore to summon something ominous and uncontrollable.
The third act of The Craft: Legacy is a blur of exposition, sisterly apologies and a silly standoff with a local warlock whose nefarious plan basically amounts to keeping women in their place and stealing their power for his own evil means.
But, wait, there’s more.
The epilogue, which sadly feels tacked on as nothing more than fan service, brings back a familiar face that should delight fans of the original, but honestly, it also represents a huge missed opportunity that should have been used early and throughout The Craft: Legacy to steer the plot in a different direction and, ahem, craft a far better film.
John W. Allman has spent more than 25 years as a professional journalist and writer, but he’s loved movies his entire life. Good movies, awful movies, movies that are so gloriously bad you can’t help but champion them. Since 2009, he has cultivated a review column and now a website dedicated to the genre films that often get overlooked and interviews with cult cinema favorites like George A. Romero, Bruce Campbell and Dee Wallace. Contact him at Blood Violence and Babes.com, on Facebook @BloodViolenceBabes or on Twitter @BVB_reviews.