Back in 1996, a little movie arrived on screens in the form of The Craft, and an instant cult classic was born. In the 24 years since, passion for the story of four high school witches who band together for magic and friendship has exponentially found an adoring audience.
Blumhouse and Sony Pictures have teamed up to bring us another chapter in the series, The Craft: Legacy, and it sure earns its moniker.
First of all, when you start a film with Alanis Morrissett’s Hand in My Pocket as a camera hovers over a car with a moving trailer behind that is rolling down a street adorned with fully colored fall trees -- we’re already intrigued.
We meet mom Helen (Michelle Monaghan) and her high school aged daughter, Lily (Cailee Spaeny), as they belt out a track that obviously has longtime meaning to both parent and child.
The lyrics themselves are beyond fitting as these two souls embark on an enormous change in both their lives.
Helen and her daughter are moving in with David Duchovny’s Adam in a home that he shares with his three teenage sons. This is a blended family that has yet to meet, other than the parents at the center of it.
Lily has always felt she was different. She hasn’t had any success with friends, so who could she possibly miss from her old life?
Her mother tells her that it is her difference that is her superpower. She will meet souls who appreciate that aspect of her persona, and sure enough, day one in the new school… she does.
Tabby (Lovie Simone), Lourdes (Zoey Luna), and Frankie (Gideon Adlon) are three witches in search of a fourth to complete their coven.
Traditionally, covens have proven to be protectors of witches as there is something about the power of four that is practically unstoppable. The new-to-school Lily is instantly thrilled and shocked to her core to learn that she too is a witch.
How did she figure that out?
Spoilers, people!! But let’s just say that when these Fab Four get together, The Craft: Legacy truly takes off.
Writer-director Zoe Lister-Jones (New Girl) has crafted (pun intended) an extraordinary salute to sisterhood and the power of women when they work together and not against each other.
The film also tackles the long since dated patriarchy that is still currently permeating the world. It’s subtle and never hits you over the head, but it is beautifully laid out and orchestrated. The Craft: Legacy is not necessarily a Girl Power movie, solely.
By the end of this supernatural cinematic journey, don’t be surprised if you’re pumping your first in the air, emboldened with a resolution to do more for the sisterhood of women.
The patriarchal aspect of Lister-Jones’ film arrives in several forms -- first and most notably with some brutal bullying by Lily’s classmates, mostly men, but a few are women.
It’s just that what the men do with their verbal (and sometimes physical) assaults is much more piercing emotionally to Lily.
Our villain fully embodies this aspect of Lister-Jones’ narrative, and his characterization couldn’t be timelier with issues surrounding misogyny finally being discussed at the highest levels of our society.
Spaeny is a find. She is central to this entire tale working. The actress must physically or at least have her essence be felt in every single frame of this film.
She is our entry into this world, and it is through her eyes that we see it. As she discovers that she is a witch, she commands the shock and awe of that realization with a palpable sensitivity.
It’s a jolt to the system and a lot to take in. Yet at the same time, her whole life up till this point starts to make a whole lot more sense.
This is the first time in this young woman’s life that she feels she has a purpose, and it’s beautiful to witness. The nuanced character arc that Spaeny brings to the role is just what Lister-Jones must have hoped for when she penned the script.
Discovering one’s inner power (especially as a teenager) is a monumental moment in any person’s life. But it is especially resonating in a woman’s journey to adulthood as painted by the auteur.
As embodied by the young actress, Lily grapples with life elements that are unique to being a witch and part of a Fab Four coven, but it transcends The Craft: Legacy to serve as a metaphor for life itself.
That is what is so great about genre films, such a horror/thrillers like this one. The supernatural aspect is exciting, fascinating and enriches the story with archetypes that have been part of storytelling milieus since the dawn of time.
Yet in supernatural thrill rides like The Craft: Legacy, the plot lines can serve as a mirror to our society and how we treat our most vulnerable and venerable.
Her co-stars are terrific but suffer from not enough character development.
In the first The Craft, there were more three-dimensional souls that were working their magic than this follow-up.
The standout of the sequel’s supporting cast has to be Adlon’s Frankie. She shows the most personality in the group, even if there is absolutely no exposition or back story to enrich her performance.
All three of Lily’s witchy friends, unfortunately, do not come off as richly as they should.
The actresses try their best, but it falls short from lack of an emotive connection to the audience. These three characters possess a bond with Lily, but it sadly feels a wee too shallow as the film progresses.
This lack of character understanding becomes exposed when some dramatic tension ensues between our Fab Four. Their connection to one another becomes frayed. Movies often insert avoidable tension so there is a dramatic conflict between its leads.
In The Craft: Legacy, it is inserted in the late second act, just so we have something to build from as we sweep towards a conclusion in the third act. It just seems out of left field in some ways.
Yet still, there is no question that the auteur has a gift of bringing us along for an entertaining ride, despite its small faults.
When it comes to The Craft and its literal legacy, Legacy does not take anything away from the original and does add some interesting landscapes for the follow-up.
In fact, here’s hoping the film does well because a third chapter would be something that is wholly warranted after this second one.
Lister-Jones makes a promising big studio debut. She has crafted a Craft movie that will be satisfying to longtime fans and entertaining to newbies. We are with Lily the whole way and eager to take this cruise through to its finish.
Does it strike a similar chord that the original did all those years ago? Not quite, but as a stand-alone film, its messages and themes are pertinent and wholeheartedly present to the world, circa 2020.
The word Legacy in the title befits how this story flows and could not be more of a fitting moniker. It fits the world the film’s original director, Andrew Flemming, created and promisingly expands on it.
There is a through line to the original that Lister-Jones keeps masterfully at bay until the exact moment that could produce the most emotive impact.
It takes a strong filmmaker to possess that kind of self-control. She should have a bright future and, hopefully, a chance to write and direct a second -- perhaps one that flashes back so we can learn more about Lily’s new pals.
Will you be watching this Halloween weekend?
Joel D. Amos is the Senior Editor of The Movie Mensch and writes film reviews for TV Fanatic. He has been an entertainment journalist for two decades now, focusing on penning reviews for film, television and streaming content of all kinds. He also has conducted hundreds of interviews with stars as varied as Harrison Ford to Elton John and Angelina Jolie. Joel is a founding member of the Hollywood Critics Association and in his free time, is all about his family.