The Craft (1996)
It's Bitch Craft
You know, if I were as pathetic as you are, I would have killed myself ages ago. You should get on with it. - Nancy
Hollywood it seems would like everyone to think that their time at school were the worst years of their lives and as such there has been a constant flow of movies which deal with teenage turmoil's during the high school years. And "The Craft" is basically another one as we follow new comer to L.A. Sarah Bailey struggling to fit in at a new school and ending up joining a little cliques of generic misfits who dislike school. But as the name of the movie eludes there is another side to all these teenage turmoil's as Sarah and her clique are witches who use their power to get their own back on those who make their lives a misery. Does this make it sound any better, well to be honest no because "The Craft" ends up a very average high school movie with a super natural streak running through it and nothing else.
Having recently moved to L.A. Sarah Bailey (Robin Tunney - Hollywoodland) soon finds herself a social misfit at school when the school stud Chris Hooker (Skeet Ulrich - As Good as It Gets) spreads malicious rumours about her when she doesn't put out for him. But she is not the only misfit and finds herself becoming friends with Nancy (Fairuza Balk), Bonnie (Neve Campbell - Scream 3) and Rochelle (Rachel True) who thanks to being different have their own clique. But these friends have something very special between them as they start to practice witch craft, casting spells on those who have treated them wrong in an attempt to get justice. But as they become more and more powerful Sarah begins to question what they are doing which angers Nancy who feels betrayed.
"The Craft" is a movie of 3 phases with the opening phase all about how high school can be a miserable affair. We watch how because Sarah doesn't put out with the high school stud he spreads malicious rumours about her and then we have her trio of friends who all end up being misfits for one issue or another, be it being poor or not being "normal". Whilst at the same time you get this element of the super natural, or at least the creepy, it's little more than an average start which tries to be mysterious but rarely achieves it.
The second phase is actually where "The Craft" comes to life as Sarah and her new friends join forces and cast spells to get retribution on those who have mistreated them. So we what as Rochelle's tormentor starts loosing her hair for no reason and the rumour spreading high school stud basically becomes a love sick puppy who does what ever Sarah wants. Some of this is quite amusing, darkly funny as each of these outcasts get their revenge in one form or another but it does seem to go on for an age.
All of which leads to the third phase where you get the element of power going to the head of Nancy Downs combined with the element of "be careful what you wish for". Basically Sarah realises that Nancy and her friends are getting out of control and the spells they have cast are not as good as they imagined they were. It's all very obvious and to be honest the whole narrative arc of "The Craft" is very obvious as you can guess what will happen the minute that Sarah is at the wrong end of some malicious gossip.
The trouble is that in order to create atmosphere and a slight element of horror there is too much going on and it becomes disjointed. For example the opening scene which sees a strange man walk into the Bailey's home carrying a snake actually has little purpose other than to be scary. And with each of the four social outcasts having to get revenge we get all these sub plots as their victims suffer but fail to really combine. It probably works for younger audiences who want some gothic, super natural light horror but it ends up feeling bitty for anyone looking for something more coherent and thought out.
The thing about "The Craft" is that it has one strength and that is in the casting in particular the casting of Robin Tunney, Fairuza Balk and Neve Campbell. It is this trio who have the most interesting characters and Tunney does a decent enough job of leading the movie as Sarah, being on one hand very normal but on the other someone with a darker side. Neve Campbell does just as well as Bonnie and in particular the scenes where we watch doctors use an experimental technique to try and heal the scarring on her back, a scene where you almost feel the pain which Bonnie is going through. But it is Fairuza Balk who really steals the show as gothic misfit Nancy and there is a real edge to her character even before they start casting spells. But it is in the scenes where the power goes to her head where Balk is just magnificent even terrifying in a dark, slightly amusing way.
What this all boils down to is that "The Craft" is entertaining but also quite average. It may try to blend high school troubles with witches but it ends up very disjointed because there is too much going on and whilst disjointed it is also quite predictable. Its strength is in its casting and whilst the likes of Robin Tunney, Fairuza Balk and Neve Campbell are all too old to be high school students they make for interesting characters especially Fairuza Balk whose gothic misfit is the most memorable thing about "The Craft".
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