The Craft: Legacy is out today, and I can without a doubt, beyond question declare it a sequel…sort of. The truth is that is a little point of contention for me, but I will get more into that later.
Now before we get into the meat of this review, I want to point out that I was so excited for this film. Unlike many so many naysayers, I was ready to give it a shot to see where the cards landed on this thing. Reboot, remake, sequel, whatever we wanted to call it, I was ready. I even gave myself a few hours after I finished watching the film before I started writing this because I wanted to make sure I had really thought it all through.
So, where to begin?
The Craft: Legacy opens with Lily (Cailee Spaeny) arriving with her mom (Michelle Monaghan) at their new home with Adam (David Duchovny), Lily’s new stepfather and his three sons. From the first moment we meet mother and daughter, they seem to have such fun together, to enjoy being together, and to enjoy the bond they have. That all falls away quickly as the new men in their life come into play.
Soon, Lily is enrolled at her new school and much like 1996’s The Craft, she quickly runs afoul of the jocks and dudebros and finds her place with three girls her age named Frankie (Gideon Adlon), Lourdes (Zoey Luna), and Tabby (Lovie Simone). These three, of course, are witches and they’re looking for a fourth to complete their coven.
This is the first disappointing component of the film. Writer/director Zoe Lister-Jones gave them the space of one music montage to figure it all out and be a powerful coven that can stop time, levitate in a classic “Light as a Feather” sequence, see auras, and cast a spell on a bullying boy at school to wake him up and make him see the error of his ways.
Now I love a good montage as much as anyone–I was raised in the 80s and 90s where you just didn’t have a good movie without a montage at some point–but the joy of this particular kind of movie is watching the gradual discovery of power and the advancement of those abilities. It was undeniably part of the charm and the terror of the first film, and was seriously lacking in this one.
Furthermore, we just weren’t told much about them and their own struggles, how they came to the craft, etc. I hate to keep comparing this film to the first, but at the very least back then we knew that Bonnie was dealing with body image issues due to her scars, Rochelle was having trouble with racists, Nancy was navigating soul-crushing poverty and abuse, and Sarah had come through depression and suicide attempts.
In this film, we know very little about them before they all met and without a starting point there’s really no arc to follow.
Instead, we rush through it all so that we can meet the big bad: Men.
This is my second point of contention with the film. Now I’m a guy who happens to know that cis-het men can be problematic and often times are because in a heteronormative world they operate in a privileged space. But even I found myself stopping and thinking, “There has to be one good man in this movie.”
As it turns out there were perhaps two and they were given very little to do. Abe (Julian Grey), the youngest of Lily’s new stepbrothers who still spends a lot of time making excuses for them all, and Timmy (Nicholas Galitzine), the jock turned good guy after the coven casts a spell on him but even his storyline suffers at the heavy hands of Lister-Jones’s writing. We’re never sure if his “wokeness” is actually his better self shining through or if everything he is saying is part of the spell.
Honestly, the film suffers from the same issue that Black Christmas 2019 faced in that it villainizes men to the point of being cartoonish so that they have no real motivations and are ultimately feeble bad guys at best.
Case in point, Lily’s stepfather runs a support group for men that’s all about embracing masculinity where he espouses platitudes like: The only reason one should feel weakness is so that one can feel powerful afterward. Men should be the stewards of power because they’re the only ones who know how to wield it. Etc., etc., etc.
Now we know that groups like these sadly exist, but there seems to be no motivation for his ideas, no underlying reason. He’s a man, therefore in this two-dimensional world he is bad. On the whole, if more time was spent on character development, then he would feel like more of a threat as would the rest of the male characters in the film.
Despite these criticisms, I don’t want you to think that I hated this film. I actually enjoyed some of it quite a lot and there were moments when I laughed out loud with wicked glee at the antics of our central coven. The finest moments in the film happen when the director lets them be teenagers and have a good time.
Furthermore, Lister-Jones managed to assemble four talented actresses for her leads. They are likable and really terrific in their roles. I was particularly impressed with Cailee Spaeny and Zoey Luna.
Luna, in particular, seemed completely natural as Lourdes, and I have to commend the writer/director for her inclusion of a trans role and hiring a trans actress to play that role. I also hope that someday we can just talk about these roles and actors and actresses without saying they are trans. Inclusion and representation is important and she handles this pretty well with Lourdes.
Unfortunately, in a film that is otherwise LGBTQ+ forward, Lister-Jones still managed to introduce a bisexual character and then kill them–almost immediately and off screen, no less–in perhaps the most on-the-nose realization of bi-erasure that we have seen in a film in a long time.
Ultimately, what I realized as the credits rolled–after a seemingly tacked-on ending tying this film to the first–is that I am not the target audience of this film, and that is perfectly okay. It’s going to hit differently for a younger generation of newbie horror fans and young women. What seems heavy-handed to me, may be exactly what they need.
I do think, in naming the film as they did, they could have thrown in a little something more for fans of the original, but perhaps they thought they did.
You can see The Craft: Legacy today on PVOD. If you haven’t seen the trailer, check it out below!