20 Years On: “The Craft”

Some films, no matter how ridiculous they are, are just fun. Maybe it’s the subject matter or the genre, even the actors, which helps makes this so. Regardless of what it is, it seems that no amount of time could possibly ruin the film. Unless, which happens from time to time, you haven’t really grown up on the film, or seen it that often. Then you could be in for a different experience altogether.

The Columbia Pictures film “The Craft”, is a fun film about magic, and the do’s and don’ts, but that’s about it. However, it’s easy to see how people like this film.

This supernatural drama stars Fairuza Balk (upcoming “Battle Scars”, “Ray Donovan”), Robin Tunney (“Love”, “My All American”), Neve Campbell (“House of Cards”, “Manhattan”), Rachel True (“Sharknado: Heart of Sharkness”, “Sharknado 2: The Second One”), Christine Taylor (“Zoolander 2”, “Burning Love”), Skeet Ulrich (“Unforgettable”, “Deliverance Creek”), Assumpta Serna (“Borgia”, “El crac”), and Cliff De Young (“A Week in London”, “Togetherness”).

The film was directed by Andrew Fleming (“Younger”, “Red Oaks”) and written by Peter Filardi (Nightmares & Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King”, “Salem’s Lot (2004”) and Fleming (“Newsreaders”, “Hamlet 2”).

The film originally opened on May 3, 1996.

So, while I’ve pretty much had every opportunity to watch this film again and again, I’ve only seen it twice or three times. Something like that. I’m not really sure why, but that’s the way it happened. It’s not because I thought the film was bad, but more that I’ve never taken the time to seek it out again and watch it. Maybe it’s just a film I thought was best viewed once and never again. Sometimes that’s all you need. When people ask, you can proudly say you’ve heard of the film and seen it. Awkward looks can thus be avoided. It’s also how find ourselves here, on this the 20th anniversary of this film’s release, discovering what it is I thought of this film. So, before I change my mind, time to dive in. It’s the best way this should be approached.

The characters in this film are fine. For female leads who are playing high schoolers, which is never all that exciting to see, they did what they could. They each brought enough talent and life to these characters. This helps because the rest of the high school characters are clichés. They’re the same ones you’ve seen in every high school movie ever made. Obnoxious assholes. There’s also the fact that the high school drama, which pads a lot of the film, isn’t worth anything. It’s dull and I stopped paying attention to those scenes pretty quickly.

However, when there’s not much truly to the overall plot, you’ve got to do something to distract from this. In some ways this is a plus and a minus. It keeps things simple, but doesn’t give you much to care about, even when thinking about the young female protagonists at the center of the story. I mean, I recognize that there are these personal character moments that give you insight into these characters, but they don’t really do much. I guess I just expected a bit more, or I’m too far removed from the types of characters that are being portrayed.

Fortunately, what these women seem to lack in character, seriously there’s not much that makes you care or like them individually, you’ve got something even better. Something stronger to focus on and like and even admire. These young women have a pretty strong bond. What starts off kind of rocky, as Tunney is the new girl, slowly develops into a friendship. From there, over the course of several scenes, we see Tunney get closer to Balk, Campbell, and True. Without this bond, which is made stronger by the fact they all have taken a liking to the occult and witchcraft, I’m able to get a lot more out of this film. Sure I can’t relate to them, except on the broad notion of friendship, but this film gives you something to ground yourself in emotionally. Seeing as this is the biggest plus, it sucks when things begin to go sideways. While these girls were warned of the consequences of using this type of magic, they do so anyway. They begin to get greedy and this is where Tunney realizes who her friends really are. And then, as can happen in high school, friendships fall apart and people get what they deserve. That last bit is more just a life lesson, but it still sucks for those that have to learn not the hard way.

Aside from the pretty amazing friendships on display, the next, and probably the only reason you came to see this film, as I’m sure that’s why it made so much money 20 years ago, is the magic. It’s just so fascinating and it’s executed in a pretty cool way. It makes it fun, believable, and exciting! I couldn’t stop watching. And as it helped these girls bond, it was doubly worth it and I never got bored. One of my favorite scenes, which came during the happy times, is when they decide to play “Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board”. It was the perfect sequence. And, it looked good.

There was a lot of magic on display, and this required good special and visual effects. Without this I think a lot of the film would’ve been badly received. I can only imagine what the various sequences would look like without these particular effects. Worse than a SyFy Original Movie. I found that these effects were good and made things far more enjoyable than I remember. Whether the magic was simply playful or full on dark and scary, the effort put into them was a success. This time around, which I’m amazed by, it all still looks incredible! For a film that’s this old, during a time when special effects were hit or miss, this film doesn’t seem to have a problem with aging.

Nothing really shows off these good special effects like the darker uses of magic. Even while we have to feel bad that Tunney’s character is being tormented by her former friends, it still makes for a hell of a lot of fun! Things actually get a bit scary, even though they’re not really scary. Some people like to call this film a horror film, and if we stick with that, I must say I wasn’t scared. The scenes with dark magic and snakes and bugs and what not, are creepy, but they’re not exactly scary. It just didn’t work that way. But it all allowed for a decent finale. The final fight scene, and the lead up to it definitely had the creepy factor set high.

The final fight was bonkers! So much going on, and it’s difficult to figure out what to like as Tunney’s the main character you’re rooting for, and she’s being attacked. The attacks and torment Tunney suffers were twisted and fun. It further showed me how Balk really stood out among all four of them leads. She had this natural ability all the way through, which also quickly came through in this film. For a villain, of sorts, she’s certainly a favorite. Anyway. Back to the fight. The execution of this fight is what made it fun. I got into it. There was magic, there was anger, there was the possibility of death, all because Balk’s character wanted to kill Tunney’s. Power really got to Balk, and Campbell, and True, which is itself interesting to see as it manifests differently. But, the worst was Balk. And so, after this fun fight, Balk gets what she deserves. I actually fell for a few moments, as that’s how few times I’d the film. I also can see how it won the MTV Movie Award for Best Fight, or whatever the category is. It was a solid way to cap off the film, and bring about the whole lesson on witchcraft and how to use it responsibly. There’s a cost to everything. And perhaps even, there may be another lesson to learn here, but I’m really not sure what that could be without doing a lot of reaching.

I may like this film enough to not think I wasted my time, and can at least appreciate a lot of what this film has to offer, but I can’t say it’s one I’m over the moon about. I’m glad I’ve finally seen it in its entirety, especially as it’s been awhile, and I was actively paying attention, but it’s just an okay film. In some ways I see both, what people got excited about and allowed for it to become a cult film, and why critics had mixed feelings about it. Watching this film also had me thinking of something. This is a female led film. While it may be dark and different than what you’d expect, it’s still a film about women. I couldn’t help but wonder if something like this would’ve even been possible 10 years ago, as the time between 1996 and 2006 had changed dramatically, at least as it pertains to the types of films we got. I doubt the remake/sequel, whatever, that’s supposed to be in the works is going to work. Guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Trailer, featuring the “Charmed” theme before it was the “Charmed” theme:


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