Written and directed by an openly gay man and fronted by a quartet of women – one of whom a woman of colour – 1996’s supernatural teen horror film The Craft was, in retrospect, ahead of its time. 2 years before witchcraft would become weekly viewing on the television series Charmed, and over a decade before teen audiences would absorb dark fantasy material in record numbers, Andrew Fleming’s tale of outcast teenagers who pursue the dark arts in many ways set an unlikely precedent for films embracing the abnormal.
For The Craft: Legacy, a sequel-cum-reimagining, the foundations laid down within Fleming’s narrative are adhered to, and though writer/director Zoe Lister-Jones is respectful to the source material, she places her own spin on proceedings – namely adopting a more feminist, inclusive touch. It’s a film very much of the now as it comments on toxic masculinity, sexual fluidity, normalising views on trans women, and how it’s one’s own uniqueness that will ultimately flourish among more the mainstream thinkers; “Your difference is your power” being one of the more on-the-nose lines of dialogue.
Much like The Craft introduced practicing witch Sarah (Robin Tunney) to the already wicca-inclined trio of Nancy (Fairuza Balk), Bonnie (Neve Campbell) and Rochelle (Rachel True), Legacy follows a semi-similar path as Lily (Cailee Spaeny) catches the attention of Lourdes (Zoey Luna), Frankie (Gideon Adlon) and Tabby (Lovie Simon), the latter three all hopeful witches who are frustrated at the disadvancement of their powers due to the lack of a fourth element within their coven. Unlike the original film’s Sarah though, Lily is unaware of the power she can possess, and it’s only because she wears a necklace that bears a wiccan symbol that she is singled out; although, an unfortunate first day at school incident puts Lily on everyone’s radar in a manner she no doubt wishes to erase.
Much of Legacy‘s narrative is a play on the original film’s structure, and though Lister-Jones is aware that imitation can be the best form of flattery, she’s smart enough to take elements of the story we know and update them just so. This is perhaps best seen through the improved focus on Lily and her mother, Helen (Michelle Monaghan). Their dynamic gives the film the heart it needs in order for us to care about what transpires, especially when their relationship is tested when Helen’s new beau, Adam (David Duchovny), displays his distinct disciplinary methods; to call his masculine mentality toxic would be an understatement.
Perhaps the most refreshing take on this story is Lister-Jones’ choice to subvert the obvious presence of a villain. Wherein The Craft it was clearly obvious that Nancy was going to be completely absorbed by the dark power, as well as both Bonnie and Rochelle flirting with villainous tendencies, Legacy makes us wonder who out of the quartet will ultimately succumb.
As much as the film touches on topics that are relevant to today’s youth market – the character of Timmy (Nicholas Galitzine), a bullying jock the girls cast a spell on to be more “woke”, works with some of the film’s more relatable subjects pertaining to sexuality – Legacy never completely leans in to the horror that could work parallel to the material. Much less of a horror film than the original, Legacy only flirts with the supernatural and appears intent on being a product of commentary rather than carnage, and though this is to be admired, anyone expecting something mildly scary will be disappointed.
Similar to the temperament adopted by last year’s Black Christmas remake, The Craft: Legacy aims to be more than just a straightforward horror film, lacing the script with a feminine energy that does its best to stick it to the man. However, unlike that film which took itself a bit too seriously before descending into supernatural madness, Legacy‘s already paranormal mindset means it gets away with some of its more exaggerated moments.
THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
The Craft: Legacy is screening in Australian cinemas now.