Starring: Robin Tunney, Fairuza Balk, Neve Campbell, Rachel True, Skeet Ulrich, Christine Taylor
BONNIE – “The almanac says today will bring an arrival or something.”
NANCY – “Yeah, wonderful, I’m getting my rag.”
When you’re a teenage girl, moving to a new city and having to join a new school must be a pain in the arse at the best of times. When the head jock at the school makes matters even worse by telling everyone you were a crap shag even though you never did anything with him, there’s only one logical solution – become a witch.
At least, that’s the conclusion Sarah (Robin Tunney, starring these days in The Mentalist) comes to. She decides to get friendly with three weird girls who have an unhealthy obsession with the occult.
Each of the girls wants to harness the power of the ‘creator’ Manon for their own reasons. Bonnie (Neve Campbell) has massive scarring on her back and wants to be able to shed it so she can feel self-confident again.
Rochelle (Rachel True) is sick of bitchy bully Laura (Christine Taylor) mocking her with racist abuse (“Why are you doing this to me?” “Because I don’t like negroids”), and wants to teach her a lesson. And Nancy (Fairuza Balk) is sick of living in a leaky trailer with an abusive stepfather and a weak mum.
It soon becomes clear that Sarah has special witchy powers, and so – with four people generally needed to summon Manon – the trio willingly become a quartet and accept Sarah into the group.
The four perform a ritual asking Manon for the power to help them with their individual problems: except Nancy, who asks for Manon to enter her body and give her all its power instead. Hmmmmm, that probably won’t cause any issues later in the film.
At first everything seems all well and good, and each girl’s issues are resolved. Evil jock man falls under a love spell and becomes Sarah’s lapdog, making him a joke figure to his other jock friends. Bonnie’s scarring comes off completely. Rochelle’s bully gets what’s coming to her when her hair starts falling out in huge clumps. And Nancy’s arsehole stepdad has a heart attack, dying and leaving her mum $175,000.
That’s all good then, time for the credits eh? Well, not quite (which is just as well, because that would be a shite ending). Eventually Sarah realises that being a witch isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Bonnie’s lack of scarring isn’t just making her confident, it’s making her a vain cow. That bully lass is almost completely bald and is frequently found crying in the school showers.
What’s worse, Sarah’s now-obsessed jock admirer is now getting desperate, to the point that he tries to get a bit rapey. After he fails with an attempted assault, she tells her friends what happened and Nancy, who’s now invoked with the power of Manon, decides to deal with it. Let’s just say the results aren’t pretty.
The rest of the film sees Sarah becoming alienated from the other three, culminating in a massive witchy battle and some truly dark moments involving the apparent deaths of family members.
Considering it was aimed at a teenage audience, The Craft is surprisingly dark. Self-harming is discussed in unflinching detail and the final third has some scares that wouldn’t feel out of place in a ‘proper’ horror film (assuming The Craft sees itself as more of a supernatural thriller).
What keeps it watchable throughout is the film’s four main actresses, who have believable chemistry – well, as believable as you can get given the subject matter.
There are a few weak aspects to the film, though. Rochelle’s sub-plot doesn’t really have a satisfying conclusion and her character arc from friend to enemy isn’t really defined.
While Bonnie’s narcissism and Nancy’s lust for power make it clear why both turned from good to evil, Rochelle just becomes a ‘baddie’ by way of default because she hangs around with the other two.
Indeed, it almost seems that she’s beginning to feel sorry for her balding bully at one point, before she quickly gets in line and becomes nasty with little explanation.
Despite these niggles, The Craft is a decent little film with a well-written script, strong performances and some surprisingly grim moments given its target audience.
HOW CAN I SEE IT?
The Craft is only available on DVD in the UK. In the US you can get either the Special Edition DVD or the Blu-ray edition. The latter is region-free so Brits craving some hi-def witchery pokery can import the Blu-ray without any hassle.
Did you enjoy this review? There are 100 more just like it in That Was A Bit Mental: Volume 1, the first TWABM ebook. A full book, in a small tablet? It must be witchcraft! (it isn’t)
Alternatively, here’s the full list of reviews on the That Was A Bit Mental site.