Dir. Andrew Fleming (1996)
The new girl in school joins a coven of three other witchy teens to try to fulfill their wildest desires, but sometimes those forces are more dangerous than they seem.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Man, 1996 was a fucking great year for horror. Scream is the obvious best film of the year, but The Craft was another entry that was massively successful and remains hugely popular 25 years later. It’s also, in my opinion, one of the better films out there about witchcraft, and it features some stellar performances from the young (though notably not teenage) cast, including Fairuza Balk in a career-defining role. It’s got some gnarly scenes of magic-induced chaos and some truly frightening shots, delivering great examples of how absolute power corrupts absolutely and teenage girls should not be entrusted with that power. Also in 1996? Sabrina the Teenage Witch, a show that could not have been more opposite from this film.
The 90’s were a time of girl power, a younger-generation adaptation of the third-wave feminism from the 60’s and 70’s. The airwaves were filled with positive messages for young girls, from the early-90’s popularity of TLC to 1997’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The movement reached it’s peak point, of course, with 1996’s release of Spice by the Spice Girls. The Craft took full advantage of this period, giving us powerful young women who still had to deal with all of the pitfalls of being a teenage high school girl. It’s a very strong movie conceptually, taking the popular female message of the day and turning it on its head a little by showing that there are also responsibilities that come with the new powers that you may find yourself possessing. It also highlights the negative effects of getting what you truly desire, sort of a monkey’s paw by way of witchcraft. Ultimately, the badass final showdown between Balk’s Nancy and Robin Tunney’s Sarah shows that Sarah was the one with the power all along, the other three witchlets leeching off of her to try to better their social positions.
The Craft deals with many of the ills of high school that, while giving most of the girls a raison d’être to help excuse their desire for power, also can come across a little movie of the week if it weren’t for the badass repercussions: Nancy lives in an abusive household wracked with poverty, Bonnie (Neve Campbell) has horrible burn scars that make her undesirable to high school boys, and Rochelle (Rachel True) is the victim of horrible racism (which seems like a much worse problem than the other two, I’m not gonna lie). They combat these problems with the power of witchcraft, of course, and the fallout is incredible (and often scary) to watch. While the third act is largely Nancy losing her goddamned mind and Sarah needing to stand up to her, the rest of the film feels like Clueless with a bit of Sabrina thrown in. It’s a fairly typical 90’s horror movie with some memorable scenes and performances, but it scratches that nostalgic itch just right for those for whom it was a seminal, coming-of-age classic. It’s perfect for a Halloween playlist because it’s a little scary while being completely accessible, and the batshit crazy finale earned the film a spot as a cult classic.
"We are the wierdos mister."
Who this movie is for: Witch movie enthusiasts; 90’s horror fans; Twitches
Bottom line: Nostalgic and filled with 90’s fashion, The Craft is a great film to show your kids what high school used to be like, for better or worse. It’s also probably my favorite film involving witches, and it’s perfect for a celebratory Halloween filmfest. If you haven’t seen it, you owe it to yourself to watch it ASAP. The Craft is badass women empowerment at its finest.