The Craft was a sleeper hit when it was released in 1996. Since then, the horror film has maintained and even built a following of fans to whom it's a very important movie. For that reason, a sequel or reboot is a tricky proposition. You don't want to mess up the ideas that so many people responded to so strongly. The Craft: Legacy – which is sort of a half-reboot/half-sequel – succeeds in staying true to the tone of the original, as well as in re-stating many of the themes. Writer/director Zoe Lister-Jones definitely takes an “if it ain't broke, don't fix it” approach to the material. That's probably a smart choice, because the core idea is even more relevant in 2020 than it was in '96.
Cailee Spaeny (throwing off some serious Brie Larson-esque vibes) stars as Lily. She and mom Helen (Michelle Monaghan) are moving into the home of Helen's boyfriend Adam (David Duchovny). The situation is awkward, as Adam has three teenage sons who are clearly no happier about the arrangement than Lily is. Life gets a little better when she befriends three girls from her new school – Lourdes (Zoey Luna), Tabby (Lovie Simone), and Frankie (Gideon Adlon). They're witches who believe that she could be the “fourth” they need to really start pulling off some spells. Lily, who has always suspected there was something special within her, agrees.
The Craft: Legacy has some initial early fun with the concept. The young women immediately turn the biggest male chauvinist pig in school, Timmy (Nicholas Galitzine), into someone “woke.” One of them even enthusiastically exclaims that he “just referred to himself as cisgender!” That's a sharp bit of satire, one that points at men not always understanding/caring about what the women around them are concerned with or taking those concerns seriously. Other parts are similar, with the characters using their powers to be heard by the people who need to hear them.
All four actresses bring a lot of energy to the story. Together, they generate a dynamic in which the characters view their ability to cast spells with enthusiasm. That dynamic begins as being awestruck by the crazy stuff they can do. Later on, it evolves into accepting responsibility for the repercussions of magic, and then into a recognition that the power can be used significantly rather than frivolously. That's the potency of The Craft: Legacy; the plot is about four young women learning to appreciate the way the abilities they possess can shape the world around them for the better. During the big finale, the girls work cooperatively, blending their individual skills into something forceful.
The one area of the movie that's a little weak is in its villain. You can probably guess from this review who it is, if not this person's specific motivation. Extra time should have been spent developing the character. As it stands, we sense there's more to them than meets the eye, but they just sort of reveal themselves as nefarious at a certain point, rather than building up to it. Expansion of the antagonist would have given the girls' unification even greater significance.
I could live with that, though, because the four leads are appealing together, and I liked both the style and the substance that Lister-Jones brings to it. The Craft: Legacy doesn't take itself too seriously. That makes it fun. At the same time, it absolutely takes its female empowerment message seriously, and that makes it substantive. In the era of the #MeToo movement and greater awareness of the patriarchal nature of society, this is a movie our culture needs right now.
out of four
The Craft: Legacy is rated PG-13 for thematic elements, crude and sexual content, language and brief drug material. The running time is 1 hour and 37 minutes.