Impressions: The Craft

I grew up with a curiosity for horror, nothing too unique there. We liked to watch horror movies at sleepovers (even when we weren’t allowed) and play scary games. More than once, I attempted a version of “Light as a Feather,” and Ouija boards were brought out regularly. So like many girls my age with these interests, I was obsessed with The Craft. It was a go-to movie at more than one sleepover, and we were all both fascinated and terrified of it. But as I have mentioned before once I got older, I distanced myself from horror only to be pulled back in, in my 20s. I have revisited a lot of the movies I watched before my extended break from the horror fandom, and The Craft remains one of my favorites. Primarily because of the nostalgia, but also because of how the movie stands on its own. I am getting way ahead of myself.

The Craft is a 1996 horror film that follows Sarah, a teenage girl with some difficulties who moves to LA with her family. There she meets three other girls who are also outcasts, Rochelle, Nancy, and Bonnie, who befriend Sarah, and inform her they are witches. Sarah is reluctant to join them at first, fearing their powers and her own past with magic. Eventually, she joins the group, and they form a coven.

At first, the story is rather fun and interesting. The teens search for various spells and slowly grow their friendship and their powers. Importantly though the presence of Sarah in the group means that the three who used to wish their magic would work are actually successful in making spells happen.

The story follows them as they start small and are thrilled with the changes to slowly pushing into more dangerous territory. Eventually, Nancy becomes powerful, and Sarah’s previous fears come back causing her to split from the group and them to seek revenge.

The Craft is an interesting movie because it’s half just a teenage story of friendship, albeit with a supernatural twist, and half a genuinely terrifying horror movie with a powerful and psychotic enemy. Each of the girl’s stories are interesting in their own right. Rochelle is forced to face racism in school and struggles with her desire for revenge versus her belief that she should rise above it. Bonnie’s back is covered in bad scars, and it has killed all potential for self-confidence. Nancy lives with an abusive stepfather and desperately wants to be more than the “white trash” that she sees herself as. Sarah is suicidal and cannot see her own self-worth or inner power. These are sad and relatable stories, especially for an audience of mostly teenage girls. You feel for them and want their situations to get better. So when things do start to improve, it hits even harder when they all start turning on Sarah and falling apart. I wanted to root for all four girls from start to finish, so it’s almost a crushing blow when you start to feel like you can’t.

I think young me who was struggling a lot with who I thought I should be and who I really was, was especially drawn to these outcasts. I got a lot more personally from watching the girls meet and sort of complete each other than I think other people watching with me did. As I got older and revisited the movie, I saw that even more. I went through a lot of drastic shifts in my early years, this is not a unique experience I know other people can relate, and I see my love for movies like The Craft in my younger age as part of me starting those shifts, even though they didn’t come until much later. I watch it now with both a little sadness in reflecting on my younger years, but also interest in seeing how young me was starting to poke at who I would become as an adult.

That is all fairly personal, and I am sure won’t translate for every audience. However, the story is such, and the girls are developed in such a way that there is a lot that people can personally project, and I think this is a good thing. Especially with it being a woman-focused story of which we lack a lot in the horror genre.

But nostalgia and emotional feelings aside, it’s still a good movie. The pacing is solid, again the girls are great characters, and it tugs at you to watch them shift so much. The movie is entertaining and fun at the start and then builds to a more horrific ending. Nancy is an incredible villain once she crosses that line, and Fairuza Balk nails her performance.

There are stand out scenes in this movie that have held their place in the horror genre. I know growing up everybody would talk about Nancy on her tiptoes sliding forward (if you haven’t seen the movie you’ll know it right away). It has also aged pretty well. Some of the CGI is a little hinky, but honestly, there are movies that came later that didn’t manage to look as good as this one. It also has memorable scenes and great quotable moments.

The movie also has a fantastic soundtrack for us 90s kids, and there are a lot of faces we all recognize in the cast. But that sort of gets to the heart of what might be wrong with this movie. Because I have so many memories surrounding it, I cannot actually say beyond a shadow of a doubt that the movie would hold up for people that did not see it when it released, or do not have 90s nostalgia. I can say that I think it will, that you might not enjoy it as much as someone like me, but that it’s a good movie overall, so you don’t need the memories to appreciate it. But it’s pretty challenging to be objective when it comes to nostalgia.

So bottom line? Well, as made clear, this is a personal favorite of mine. I have watched this movie many a time, and I still really enjoy it. I think it’s entertaining, well done, and has some terrifying scenes even if it’s not the scariest movie I have seen. I also appreciate that it is unique in the world of horror, with few other movies that you can really say are like it. I would recommend it to any genre fan that hasn’t seen it (especially genre fans looking for something woman-focused) and say that it is worth a revisit.

I am also cautious, although admittedly not thrilled, at the rumored future remake. I think there is a lot that could be done with the concept, and that it might just work to see an updated version. I would hope to see more of “sequel” type movie, with the same basic concept, a coven of four with some journey, without it being a remake of these four characters. At this point, it is way too early to speculate too much, however.

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