THE CRAFT (1996) Reviews and overview

THE CRAFT - Japanese Poster

The Craft is a 1996 American supernatural horror feature film directed by Andrew Fleming from a screenplay co-written with Peter Filardi.

The movie stars Robin Tunney (Monster Party; End of Days), Fairuza Balk (Trespassers; The Worst WitchThe Island of Doctor Moreau), Neve Campbell (Scream and sequels), Rachel True (Embrace of the Vampire) and Skeet Ulrich (Scream).

The Craft was released domestically on May 3, 1996, by Columbia Pictures and took $24,819,936 at the box office.

A Collector’s Edition Blu-ray was released on March 12, 2019, by Scream Factory. Artist Joel Robinson designed the new cover art (above, click to enlarge) and the original theatrical poster is on the reverse of the sleeve. Special features:

New Directing The Craft – an interview with co-writer and director Andrew Fleming
New Producing The Craft – an interview with producer Douglas Wick
New Writing The Craft – an interview with co-writer Peter Filardi
New Effecting The Craft – an interview with makeup effects supervisor
Audio Commentary with director Andrew Fleming
Vintage Featurette – Conjuring The Craft
Vintage Featurette – The Making of The Craft
Deleted Scenes with optional audio commentary
Theatrical Trailer

The film, which features an alt. rock soundtrack that includes Love Spit Love’s grunge cover of The Smiths’ “How Soon is Now” and a score by horror regular Graeme Revell (Freddy vs. JasonGrindhouse: Planet TerrorRiddick), became a $55 million sleeper hit at the box office. It has since gained a cult following, especially amongst goth teenage girls who identify with the lead characters.

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Plot:

Sarah Bailey (Robin Tunney), a troubled teenager, has just moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles with her father and stepmother. At her new Catholic school, she forms a friendship with a group of girls rumoured to be witches, Bonnie (Neve Campbell), Nancy (Fairuza Balk) and Rochelle (Rachel True). At the same time, Sarah becomes attracted to the popular Chris (Skeet Ulrich).

Bonnie, Nancy and Rochelle worship a powerful deity named “Manon”. Sarah exhibits supernatural powers from the onset of the film, and her new friends believe that she will complete their coven, making them all powerful. When Sarah is harassed by a vagrant with a snake (whom she had encountered before in her new house), he is immediately hit by a car to die and the girls believe that together they willed it to happen…

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Review:

This 1996 film tells the story of four witches, all of whom attend the same very judgmental high school.

Nancy (Fairuza Balk) is their leader, the one who is most dedicated to worshipping the ancient deity “Manon.” Nacy dressed in black, like all good people. She also lives in a trailer park with her pervy stepfather and her chainsmoking mother. Sarcastic and quick with an insult, Nancy is an outcast and she’s proud of it.

Bonnie (Neve Campbell) is the quiet witch. She’s the one who wears baggy clothes and hardly ever seems to wash her hair. She’s insecure because her back is covered in scars, the result of a car accident. Bonnie follows Nancy’s orders.

Rochelle (Rachel True) is the witch who never seems to get to do much. As one of the only black students at the high school, she faces constant discrimination. She likes to swim. To be honest, we don’t find out much about Rochelle beyond that.

And then there’s Sarah (Robin Tunney). She’s the new girl at school, having just moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Bonnie is the first one who notices that Sarah has powers of her own. Even though Sarah is, at first, freaked out by Nancy’s talk of Manon, she eventually joins the group after a male student, the loathsome Chris Hooker (Skeet Ulrich), starts to spread rumours about her.

Together… they solve crimes!

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No, actually, they don’t. Instead, they cast spells. Fortunately, now that Sarah has joined the group, they’re finally powerful enough to actually make their spells mean something. Soon, each girl is getting exactly what she wants but they’ve forgotten the Rule of Three — every action returns to you threefold.

And, even worse, Nancy’s starting to act just a little bit crazed….

I love The Craft. In fact, to be honest, I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t love the film. That doesn’t mean that the film is flawless, of course. There’s actually a whole lot of things that I could point out that don’t quite work about this film. For instance, the character of Rochelle is totally underdeveloped. Robin Tunney, as good an actress as she is, sometimes seems to be miscast as Sarah. (It’s hard not to feel that she and Neve Campbell should have switched roles.) The film starts out as a clever and sharp-tongued satire but it kind of loses its way towards the end, becoming a far more conventional supernatural thriller.

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But no matter! Sometimes, flaws just don’t matter. The Craft works because anyone who has ever felt like an outcast — and, let’s just be honest, that’s pretty much everyone — can relate to the film. At some point in their life, everyone has felt ostracized. Everyone has felt like they were on the outside looking in. Everyone has wished that they had the ability to cast a spell whenever they wanted. Everyone has felt like Sarah, Bonnie, and Rochelle and, even more importantly, everyone has felt like vengeful Nancy.

Perhaps appropriately, it’s the actress who plays Nancy, Fairuza Balk, who steals the entire film. It’s not that the other actors are bad. Indeed, the strong and likeable cast is one of this film’s main strengths. But no one can quite match Balk’s intensity as Nancy. Balk manages to remain believable even while going totally over the top.

In the end, Nancy is the most compelling character in the film. She may be a villain. She may kill a few people. But she’s also the only character willing to stand up for herself. Sarah’s magic may be powerful but she never seems to be having much fun with it. Nancy, on the other hand, is all about showing off what one can do with enough power.

Lisa Marie Bowman, guest reviewer via Horror Critic – click the link to read more reviews

 

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Other reviews:

“Fleming’s film begins promisingly as a black comedy a la Heathers, but then quickly succumbs to its machinery of special effects; this is yet another bad picture in a long list of Hollywood flops about witchcraft. Still, young audiences, particularly women, are likely to connect with this energetic high-school tale about the vengeful empowerment of rebellious misfits…” Variety

 

“Not only does The Craft rise to the top of the slew of teen movies made over the years, it also stands up as a queer classic. Feelings of being an outsider and defected, searching for an identity whilst trying to fit in, overcoming all the struggles along the way and establishing yourself in your own terms is something every gay person can identify with. This is not just another teen movie.” Polari Magazine

 

The Craft might sound like a teenage movie, but it has a very dark, intense undertone, and a banging soundtrack … The actors are great, especially Fairuza Balk, I mean, can it get any creepier? And even though the actors were much older than the characters they were playing, it seems realistic … amazing camera work, the interesting storyline, the facts about witchcraft, and if you look at it, it basically shows you the consequences of bullying.” Simon Says… Watch This!

“From being semi-interesting about four girls who play with powers you can realise from the get-go are going to be a very bad idea, it turns into a generic mid-90s teen horror flick. As films go, it’s predictable – hanging out with the wrong crowd, the bad girls … not like you can’t see how that’s going to end, or who is going to let the power go to her head the most. Still, I was actually quite entertained.” The Squeee

Cast and characters:

Robin Tunney … Sarah Bailey
Fairuza Balk … Nancy Downs
Neve Campbell … Bonnie Harper
Rachel True … Rochelle Zimmerman
Skeet Ulrich … Chris Hooker
Cliff DeYoung … Mr Bailey
Christine Taylor … Laura Lizzie
Breckin Meyer … Mitt
Nathaniel Marston … Trey
Helen Shaver … Grace Downs
Assumpta Serna … Lirio
William Newman … Street Preacher
Brenda Strong … Doctor

  

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