There’s a certain finesse, a careful craft, that should be applied whenever a filmmaker decides to revisit a considerably popular genre film. Sequels, remakes, retellings, continuations, and all the variances in between are born with the automatic stigma of a lesser than status, marking them as a challenge from the start. Rarely do they meet the precognizant standards of the audience. One of the more effective ways to avoid the repetitive nature assigned to these kinds of films is for one to reinvent the formula, something writer and director Zoe Lister-Jones embraces in her 2020 feature film debut, The Craft: Legacy. Following Andrew Fleming’s beloved The Craft released in 1996, Lister-Jones continues the spell cast by four high school outcasts in a new age way.
Starring Cailee Spaeny (Bad Times At The El Royale), Gideon Adlon (The Society), Lovie Simone (Shelah And The Spades), Zoey Luna (Pose), Nicholas Galitzine (Handsome Devil), with Michelle Monaghan (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) and David Duchovny (The X-Files), The Craft: Legacy follows high schooler Lily as she enters a new home and school with her mother Helen, new stepfather Adam, and his three adolescent sons. As an initial outcast and loner, Lily suffers the torment of the male students, especially the aggressive Timmy, before finding solace in three new friends Lourdes, Tabby, and Frankie.
“The Craft: Legacy lends appropriate nods to its predecessor without turning itself into a shot-for-shot remake.”
Completing their coven circle and discovering some new extraordinary abilities, Lily and her friends use their novice powers to manipulate the world around them and cast spells on others in an effort to better their environment. As a dark force comes between the circle and Lily learns more about her lineage, secrets and surprises boil and bubble in a light young adult flick that respectfully embraces the corners it’s manifested from while setting itself apart by celebrating the current era of empowerment.
Your Difference Is Your Power
Being that The Craft: Legacy is a continuation of The Craft, it’s almost impossible not to compare the two. The film itself calls back to the original, yet that in no way promises a mock narrative which works much to its advantage. For those who are fans of the original, it’s important to keep a number of factors in mind including the target audience, the nature of current circumstances, and the films’ respective purposes when drawing those differences. From the familiar bold title cards to the overall plot, The Craft: Legacy lends appropriate nods to its predecessor without turning itself into a shot-for-shot remake. The initial welcoming of sisterhood is strong as Lourdes, Tabby, and Frankie build up Lily and support her differences from everyone else much like Sarah’s initiation into Nancy, Rochelle, and Bonnie’s coven in The Craft.
Lister-Jones takes a smart approach to the dynamics between her group of friends by bringing them together rather than the dark competition that complicates the group of the original one. This deviation is a praiseworthy path that reflects a more modern audience that is aware of the power in unity than division. Through a more contemporary lens, the heavy themes of teenage complexities are present and heightened reflecting today’s adolescent activism toward a more accepting climate. Ending with one hell of a shocking callback to the original, The Craft: Legacy proves to have a solid direction that will entertain newcomers and surely surprise longtime fans. Appealing to a younger crowd is one of the film’s most divisive components, but when viewers look closely at the intentions and what it means to the genre as a whole, the more positive differences cast a shining spell.
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“The dark 90’s edge is replaced by a more safe sense of atmosphere, which detracts from the threat at hand. “
As the film progresses through the coven’s magical education and Lily’s individual journey, The Craft: Legacy does not go without complications that are more than likely to be observed through the eyes of both diehard fans and first time viewers. The film grazes over the coven’s development in their newfound powers and the expectation for revenge against wrongdoing is deeply watered down, possibly to elevate the women’s more topical agenda. Unfortunately, the characters of Lourdes, Tabby, and Frankie are never fully rounded out with little attributions made to them as individuals. They take the background to Lily’s role and aside from a few throws in the dialogue, don’t have any true identifiable qualities one would hope to see in a group of young women.
The dark 90’s edge is replaced by a more safe sense of atmosphere, which detracts from the threat at hand. Lister-Jones is capable of amping up the film’s overall scare factor as is evident in her brief eerie Ari Aster-esque shadow work, but that is where the terror of any range stops. Softening the horror focus does open the film up to a larger audience, creating a more broad and diverse consumer base for the genre. However, this might lose the attention of more mature viewers thinking The Craft: Legacy will match The Craft’s contempo gothic aura. Some differences give this continuation power, some arguably weaken its effect. It’s truly best to check expectations at the door and go into this film fresh without preconceived notions of tone or appeal.
Call The Corners
Looking at the more basic production components of The Craft: Legacy, there are elements that film casts under its modern spell and others that could use a touch of magic. It’s clear that Lister-Jones had big plans for the narrative going into this project with more moving parts than the film’s 1 hour and 30 minute run time could accommodate. From the moment Lily meets her coven, the kinship and practice of their abilities goes full on ahead. Taking time to build on the role and transformation of Timmy adds a significant layer to the major themes at play, but it seems to consume scenes better served elsewhere. Being that the understanding and application of their powers as well as the characterization of the individual young women are sadly underutilized, the pacing suffers.
The subject matter is turned away from the ominous nature of magic and gears more toward social commentary, which happens to be one of the film’s strengths yet it winds up overpowering much of the story. When magic is applied the CGI is basic and juvenile, even for a younger audience’s consideration. For experienced viewers, it will undoubtedly come off hokey and outdated. The Craft: Legacy’s narrative would have greatly benefitted from a happy medium that accommodated more of the core coven and the powers that bring them together.
“[…] gears more toward social commentary which happens to be one of the film’s strengths yet it winds up overpowering much of the story.”
While it may not effectively call every corner of desired production into place, The Craft: Legacy does establish a clear sense of style visually. The wardrobe design is a burst of eclectic fashion that draws the eye to each of the witches onscreen from the shimmer of their face stones and jewelry to their clothing that invokes 90’s and feminine trends with a millennial twist. The set pieces are rich and vibrant, contrasting the boldness of Lily’s new home to the coven’s divine physical Wiccan setups. Accompanying its manifested mood board of imagery, the background music is a compilation that creates a cool folk-sounding blend that vibrates with energy. The dialogue is definitely inspired by today’s teen repertoire, but it never goes beyond the point of jarring jargon. Each of the performances bring a levity of emotional authenticity to the circle.
Thankfully Zoey Luna provides true Trans representation in her role as Lourdes, addressing the topic of intersectional womanhood and inclusivity head-on in her part of the group. Nicholas Galitzine’s reversal from the angry bully to a “woke” young man in his highest self is a tremendous addition to the narrative and furthers Lister-Jones’ perfectly organic allocation of today’s progressive culture. In spite of some cinematic pitfalls, The Craft: Legacy charges to the forefront of social advocacy chanting the influential incantation of diversity and fusing together a potion of elements fit to serve open minded viewers.
From New To Full
One of the most commendable qualities of The Craft: Legacy is Lister-Jones’ way of making it feel new for all ranges of viewers. There are the quintessential recognizable moments, but the narrative takes a similar story and presents a fresh threat wrapped in bold themes. Lily is a great lead with a kind and vulnerable strength taken on by Cailee Spaeny with a sensible ease. Her smart and compassionate demeanor is relatable and seamlessly entertains the film’s inner feminist core. The coven uplift one another in a refreshing take on teenage womanhood and bring a whole new age of empowerment to viewers.
While some of the writing may expose obvious plot twists and some of the bigger situations are a little predictable, there are a handful of substantial surprises that add a great deal of excitement to the storyline. The open-ended and unexplained holes in the narrative might seem like sloppy writing, but may only serve to provide points of continuation for more installments in the future. One can only hope that’s the case, otherwise there are far too many loose ends to deem it complete. It holds the confidence to be the worthy follow up to a fan favorite, yet falls flat in some major places that could have been avoided. In the end, the careful balancing act that is The Craft: Legacy moving from The Craft while maintaining its relative composition to the original pays off with a rewarding continuation for a bright, younger generation.
ADS ARE SCARY
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“The Craft: Legacy holds the confidence to be the worthy follow up to a fan favorite, yet falls flat in some major places that could have been avoided.”
Have you seen The Craft: Legacy? What do you think of Zoe Lister-Jones’ continuation of The Craft? What worked for you? What did not work? Were you surprised by the film’s ending? Let us know your thoughts over to Twitter, Reddit, or in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook, and get more horror delivered straight to your inbox by joining the Neighbourhood Watch Newsletter.