Courtesy of Blumhouse, the genre production house that gives and keeps on giving, comes this sort-of sequel/reboot (press notes call it a “continuation”) of the 1996 cult favorite The Craft, which worked (and endures) because the four female leads had distinct and interesting personalities and weren’t afraid to get wicked at times in their quest to become a fearsome coven of witches. Those girls also were also beyond cool, especially Fairuza Balk who embodied the modern knowing, hip witch with badass clothes, makeup, and an evil smile. Unfortunately, none of the new generation of witches in The Craft: Legacy are as interesting, even though they possess a certain energy that might inspire young people feeling like outcasts.
The film begins when Lily (Cailee Spaeny, Hulu’s “Devs”) pulls into a new town with her single mom (the great but woefully underutilized Michelle Monaghan) to move in with mom’s new boyfriend (David Duchovny). Duchovny plays an author and inspirational speaker who caters to men in need of structure and a sense of being the one in power over their lives, so we already have an idea who the film’s true big bad is going to be. As soon as she starts school, Lily is bullied by some of the boys in her class, but also befriended by three girls—Frankie (Gideon Adlon), Tabby (Lovie Simone), and Lourdes (newcomer Zoey Luna)—who already seem bound to each other but are eager to bring Lily into their group, especially after she’s able to receive telepathic messages from them. Lily is completely unaware that she has any predisposition for witchery, but once the other girls clue her in, she embraces it, and the newly born coven starts fine-tuning and enhancing their collective power.
They turn Lily’s primary bully into the woke-est boy in their school, to such a degree that the girls all become friends with him. But beyond that, they don’t really cut loose with their witchcraft in any substantial way, except at the very end when they have to do battle with the film’s last-minute villain. A big part of the reason I was intrigued by The Craft: Legacy initially was that it was written and directed by actress-turned-filmmaker Zoe Lister-Jones, whose previous directing effort was the charming and funny Band Aid (2017), in which she also co-starred. But there’s almost nothing equally charming about her new film, which goes through certain teenage motions about crushes, cliques and family, but never really embraces its inner witch.
The movie’s biggest flaw is that it never generates any steam until the final act, and even the bad guy is dispatched with relative ease. There are a few twists and revelations along the way (including the way in which the film is connected to the original movie), but they aren’t really that surprising, and as a result of the movie’s PG-13 rating (the first film was rated R), it doesn’t even feel that dangerous a prospect (although it does feature more bodily fluids than any PG-13 work in recent memory, and that’s not icky at all). I was genuinely rooting for this one to get itself in gear and make something happen, but instead it just sits there without a decent connective spirit among the four leads and nothing to say. Even its easy-target messages about being yourself, toxic masculinity, and girl power feel muted in the end. It’s disappointing overall, but for fans of the first film hoping to recapture some of that dark magic, it’s downright tragic.
The Craft: Legacy is currently streaming via VOD.
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