The mid-nineties tale of a high school coven has yet to lose its luster, nearly 20 years after its original release. It almost received a sequel, but thankfully that never blossomed, leaving the ending neatly sealed. Despite the rumors of a potential remake/sequel/reboot, I’m hoping they leave this one alone. Would a movie that echoes Clueless with Buffy peppered in fair well now? It wouldn’t. It wasn’t groundbreaking movie making, but it’s fun and relentless in its own methods. The story of witchcraft is overshadowed by the drama amongst the awesome cast, a group of misfits, dealing with adolescence and then the art of using their abilities.
Fiaruza Balk (The Waterboy, American History X) puts on a psychotic performance as Nancy Downs, the leader of the crew at a Catholic High School. The arrival of Sarah Bailey (Robin Tunney) begins to define Downs’ nature, as unstable and out for power. Neve Campbell as Bonnie and Rachel True playing Rochelle complete the fierce group that wish to retaliate amongst their peers. The girls befriend Bailey, the newcomer, after discovering she possesses telekinetic powers and explore the extent of their magic.
After a night in the woods, Rochelle’s bully loses her hair in the locker room, Bonnie’s scars disappear, and Bailey’s crush begins to lust for her. Eventually the wishes invoke heightened results and Bonnie becomes shallow, Laura has lost all her hair and Chris, Bailey’s crush, attempts to rape her in a parking lot. Nancy takes it upon herself to get revenge for his actions resulting in him breaking his neck from a fall.
The coven turn on Bailey as she seeks help from Lirio, the town’s occult store owner as Downs’ powers have grown from an incantation the three complete. By cruel magic, they create an illusion that Sarah’s parents have perished by plan crash and attempt to make her kill herself, but are not successful. Nancy slits her wrists instead, but because she is a “natural witch,” she is able to heal and fight back. This, of course, means her place is much more defined than the others that have used ritual to invoke “The Spirit”, Manon. It turns out, Sarah Bailey was the head honcho all along and while she tried to kill herself in the past, we learn that her mother was also part of it all, guiding her from the beyond. As cheesy as that all comes together, it worked in 1996. We get a great witch showdown with plenty of rats and insects along with some shapeshifting and bam, that’s good popcorn eating.
The quality that sticks with me the most about this movie is not the obvious link to my childhood and the fact the beautiful Christine Taylor is in it, but that it’s filthy and innocent, all at once. I can’t think of another movie that did this regarding this theme that didn’t fully throw itself into comedic fantasy like Hocus Pocus, another top pick that tells an interesting take. Other familiar faces are Breckin Meyer from Road Trip, Rat Race, and Clueless and Skeet Ulrich of Scream and Jericho fame. The soundtrack that finely supplements the much entertaining release includes titles from Jewel, Elastica, Sponge, and Our Lady Peace.
The Craft gets a Tony Giallo rating of 3 Pencils out of 5.