Review: The Craft: Legacy
Director Zoe Lister-Jones's follow-up to a 90s cult classic feels both fresh and nostalgic
Written by Amy West
Released in 1996, The Craft received mixed reviews - a couple of which condemned its “campy” tone and reliance on “garish” special effects. Since then though, the film has become an undeniable cult classic as more and more people unpacked its exploration of female friendship and power. Now, in 2020, Zoe-Lister Jones has tasked herself with conjuring up something that matches the original’s long-standing magic.
On the surface, both chapters are very similar. Much like how the first film opens on a trio of burgeoning witches attempting to cast spells and talking openly about how they must “find their fourth” in order to strengthen their spiritual connection, The Craft: Legacy begins in the exact same way. Fortunately, their soon-to-be sister Lily (Cailee Spaeny, brilliant) is driving into town simultaneously with her mum (Michelle Monaghan), who’s shacking up with her overzealous, men’s motivational speaker boyfriend (David Duchovny) and his three sons.
During her first day at her new school, Frankie (Gideon Adlon), Tabby (Lovie Simone) and Lourdes (Zoey Luna) make a beeline for Lily after she has a run-in with school bully Timmy (Nick Galitzine), suspecting that there might be more to her than meets the (third) eye. The quartet become fast friends, illustrated by a bunch of largely dialogue-free sequences that see the foursome learn how to stop time, levitate, create flames - and shimmery eye makeup - out of thin air and enchant Timmy into being a more ‘woke’ version of himself. The effects are faultless and the cast imbue their characters with such charm that they’re impossibly fun to be around, but the montages mean they’re given very little in the way of edge or depth. (That said, the girls’ slow-mo entrance into the school cafeteria is a cute homage to Legacy’s predecessor).
While The Craft managed to examine the young women’s lives - and the reasons why they might have been drawn to sorcery in the first place - away from their newfound coven, Frankie, Tabby and Lourdes aren’t fleshed out whatsoever. Well, aside from the fact that the latter is trans (which is, irrefutably, an awesome step towards more inclusive storytelling). Their individuality is subdued so much, in fact, that you might find yourself hard-pressed to remember their names once the credits start rolling.
It’s almost as if writer-director Zoe Lister-Jones didn’t want these teens to be burdened by trauma so did anything to avoid it, which is admirable in a sense and does make for a sweet three-quarters of a movie. However, it has a jarring effect when things start to go south during its final act, as an unexpected death outside of the group causes them to suddenly question their bond and a villain - albeit a heavily foreshadowed one - finally appears. The tension can’t help but feel unearned.
Clunky pacing aside, everything Lister-Jones throws into the cauldron really works, and it’s remarkable how it manages to feel both fresh and nostalgic. (Shoutout to that ‘Jagged Little Pill’ needledrop). Its cliffhanger ending, too - it’s evident this was written with a sequel in mind - is a corker, it’s just not quite enough to conclude that The Craft: Legacy reached its full potential. Much like Frankie, Tabby and Lourdes, it’s missing something… a little more darkness, perhaps, or even a little more runtime... Here’s hoping it gets a chance to find it in a welcome follow-up.
Director: Zoe Lister-Jones
Screenwriter: Zoe Lister-Jones
Cast: Cailee Spaeny, Gideon Adlon, Lovie Simone, Zoey Luna, David Duchovny
Distributor: Sony Pictures Releasing
Running Time: 90 minutes