July 1, 2018

The Craft (1996)
Grade: 48/100

Director: Andrew Fleming
Stars: Robin Tunney, Fairuza Balk, Neve Campbell

What it's about. Four students at a Catholic high school form a witches coven. Sarah (Robin Tunney), the new girl in town, joins the tight threesome click led by bad girl Nancy (Fairuza Balk). The other two are Bonnie (Neve Cambpell) and Rochelle (Rachel True).

Soon, the quartet are casting spells on their frenemies, including dufus would-be boyfriend Chris (Skeet Ulrich), blonde bitch Laura (Christine Taylor), and Nancy's white trash stepdad.

But it eventually becomes clear that Nancy is losing it, and becoming dangerously violent. A concerned Sarah quits the coven, compelling Nancy to wreak revenge.

How others will see it. The Craft was a modest box office success, taking in 30M in worldwide box office on a 15M budget. The film was ignored by the festival circuit with the exception of the Saturn Awards, which nominated the movie as Best Horror Film and gave Balk a supporting actress nod. Balk would soon draw greater notice for her roles in American History X, The Waterboy and Almost Famous.

Today at imdb.com, the movie has a reasonable 65K user votes. The user ratings range from 6.8, from women under 30, to 6.1 from men over 45. The user reviews are predominantly positive. One repeats the critics' description as "Carrie meets Clueless" but it is definitely closer to Carrie.

How I felt about it. Most people have wondered, at some point in their lives, wouldn't it be nice if I could switch places with a beautiful teenage girl. You would have youth, beauty, health, and the potential of marrying a desirable high earner.

But the reality, according to Hollywood, is much different: suicide attempts, scars from severe burns, bullying at school, nappy hair. Okay, the last item was just a joke.

Since movies must be made, why not make them about a clique of four beautiful girls. After all, they are a pleasure to look at, they have a lot of energy, and their theoretically limitless future is unresolved and at risk. Thus, you have cinematography and drama.

But apparently, that's not enough to satisfy audiences. You need something beyond Mean Girls. This explains the plethora of shows in which these pretty teens have supernatural powers. Most such shows are lame, in that those with powers use them in mostly harmless ways, or otherwise soon show remorse for even minor transgressions.

The Craft is different in that the head of the coven has malevolent motivations, and must be stopped. This embrace of the dark side is ripe for conflict. The potential for a good movie is there.

The Craft, though, is merely watchable. The powers the girls acquire come so quickly, and with such intensity, that they seem undeserved and lack credulity. In fact, the effort seems shallow: a clique and their disproportionate revenge, followed by a freak show ending. So much for sheltering the homeless, or at least befriending the unpopular.