Review: 'The Craft Legacy' casts lousy spell
Courtesy of Sony
Andrew Fleming’s “The Craft” didn’t open to enthusiastic numbers in the summer of 1996, though it featured a plethora of rising and established actresses: Robin Tunney, Fairuza Balk, Neve Campbell, and Rachel True. But in the years since, the film about a group of catholic school girls who dabbled with pagan witchcraft has achieved cult status. So it’s no shocker that Blumhouse - who loves restructuring older properties ala “Black Christmas,” and “Halloween” into their cheap business model - sees the commercial profitably in a B-level franchise such as “The Craft.”
In this case, the soft reboot which is more or less a sequel, is helmed by indie auteur Zoe Lister-Jones and not only lacks the charm of its predecessor, aside from the name (or a brief cameo) “The Craft Legacy” would be your average CW fantasy teenage drama. It doesn’t help most of the crop of fresh faces (obviously trying to mimic the lightning in a bottle casting of “The Craft”) never click, and the screenplay - also by Lister-Jones - relies too heavily on genre troops to get the narrative across. There are some woke 2020 undertones peppered in the script, but it's undercut by wonky chemistry, a rushed-to-the-finish line conclusion, and a criminal lack of urgency.
Whereas “The Craft” spent ample time getting to understand the character dynamics, “The Craft Legacy” quickly establishes the four-women coven as besties who don’t understand their powers and use them on bullies and not anything else. Rising star Cailee Spaeny plays Hannah, the obligatory new girl on the block who’s been plucked from her past life to move in with soon to be stepfather (David Duchnovy) at the behest of her absent minded and lonely mother (Michelle Monaghan).
There’s a sense of uneasiness in the new home, especially as her stepbrothers are seemingly written for the sole purpose of being frat headed douchebags. She goes to school the next day with a fresh perspective only to end up crying in the bathroom before getting rescued by a new possy (made up of Lovie Simone, Zoey Luna, and Gideon Adlon) who offer Hannah a seat at their table.
Think “Mean Girls” but if they had supernatural powers.
Punctuated with an angsty soundtrack, the girls discover they’re connected through bouts of telepathy and begin their own coven of madness one day out in the woods. The whole presentation is a bit muffled, as we never understand what motivates these characters outside than revenge fueled psychic abilities. At least “The Craft” had a sense of camaraderie where for most of “Legacy” the girls are separated and left to fend for themselves - save for a final, clumsy, standoff where the squad faces their biggest threat to date: toxic masculinity.
You can tell Lister-Jones is desperate to let the audience know this is far removed from the nineties and makes the appropriate decision to be politically correct in 2020. There are half-baked social commentaries about how victimized women are never believed, and a fellow student who is afraid to oust their sexual orientation in fear of diminished social status. Both of which are granted about two minutes of screentime, thus undermining the point our screenwriter is trying to make. Perhaps a bigger budget would allow “The Craft Legacy” to expand on those ideals and lock down a clearer focus on what drives these characters. Friendship? Maybe, but what else? It’s not believable. You’ll even witness a sequence where a bunch of men circle up and vent their emotions, and it feels like an afterthought. And when you find out why, it becomes more ridiculous.
Originally set up for theatrical release, Sony has made the decision, amid the pandemic, to settle for a premium video on-demand launch, which is fitting considering most of the film plays like a direct to streaming sequel. Spaeny is given the meatiest role and has to convey a wide range of emotions with “Legacy” operating as a fine vehicle for the ambitious young star, but you wish the resources around her (effects, co-stars etc.) had more enchanting elements to them. Instead, “The Craft: Legacy” casts a pretty lousy spell and never makes the case for its existence.
THE CRAFT LEGACY is now available via premium video on-demand