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Film Review: The Craft (1996)

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SYNOPSIS:

A newcomer to a Catholic prep high school falls in with a trio of outcast teenage girls who practice witchcraft, and they all soon conjure up various spells and curses against those who anger them.

REVIEW:

It’s one thing to call the 1996 film “The Craft” iconic and a cult favorite, it’s another to say it’s exceptional. The movie featuring 4 young high schoolers who go too far with witchcraft has for a long time held a special place in film and cinematic accomplishments. Some cite the premise of 4 scrappy outcasts an inspiration to female empowerment, while others just simply like the actresses dynamics, performance, and synergy placing it firmly upon the “rewatch often” shelf.

This 1996 film originates out of the plot line of combining teen angst, social issues, and boyfriend problems into a uniquely one-of-a-kind horror/fantasy production that easily set the mark for all four actresses: Robin Tunney, Fairuza Balk, Neve Campbell and Rachel True (not to mention, additional noted actors Skeet Ulrich and Christine Taylor).

Neve was not yet a household name, just on the cusp of notoriety with the TV show “Party of Five”. Robin Tunney was previously cast in non-starring roles, bit parts, and character spots. Fairuza Balk was still young and about to carve herself into a movie niche with her gothy appearance and enigmatic nature. Rachel True would also quickly move from pure unknown to a role figure for the younger females of African American culture to relate to.

Calling them “outcasts and scrappy” is by far a pure premise intent as we have come to know them as 4 beautiful actresses each with their own particular quirks and attractions. Robin played the lead as Sarah Bailey, while Fairuza Balk was clearly the more dynamic of the bunch often jumping from calm to frenetic in a given moment. The 4 of them not only have on screen chemistry, but seem to fit their parts perfectly.

The subject of witches is not by any means new with other movies such as “Little Witches” “Hocus Pocus”, “Suspiria” and “Witches of Eastwick” also making a mark on the whole coven-to-Wiccan theme. However, the world at the time was due for an edgier, hipper (if you will) theme that addresses all these issues combined with the idea of “careful what you mess with and wish for”. You might even say this is the way more accessible rock and roll version of the is revisited theme.

We have Sarah, a new girl in town who’s awkwardness is quickly embraced by the 3 friends: Nancy Downs (Fairuza Balk), Bonnie (Neve Campbell) and Rochelle (Rachel True). The 3 of them, a trio who have been “dinking around” with Wiccan lore while seemingly awaiting a 4th member to complete their circle of fire, water, air and earth.

For those who are paying attention to movie details the elements align to the order of Nancy (fire), Sarah (earth), Bonnie (wind) and Rochelle (water). Careful viewers can make the connections thru the scenes thru out the movie that subtly connect each with their focal element (Bonnie at one point is practicing rituals while air blows her hair back….etc).

The role of Nancy gave actress Fairuza Balk, a frequented typecast association that lead to many more “like roles” that more-or-less required a fiery, edgy, witchy type of character. The Goth culture would embrace Fairuza as one of their own often citing Fairuza Balk as a poster child figure for the culture.

None the less, as the film evolves, so does the confidence, actions and looks of these 4 girls who discover and embrace their found powers using rituals that invoke the powers from beyond aka “Invocation of the Spirit”. At one point Nancy literally walks on water (after calling upon the full powers of “Manon”). It is assumed that the addition of Sarah (who may have been the awakening force needed to spark their powers) was the ignition switch into the rest of the gang garnering abilities. This is further tested thru a 3rd act conformation between the 4 of them later in the film.

The rhythm, look, and dialog all work extremely well in this film as we watch these misfits become self-empowered in more ways that one. Skeet who plays Chris Hooker, high school football heartthrob, does wonders to his role as he instantly becomes the victim here moving from ass hole to servant under the direction of the 4 jaded females. Sarah, the most recent disgruntled of the bunch takes her vengeance out on Chris as a prank resulting in more attention than she intended. The remaining 3 additionally use their powers to invoke results that appear to later backfire on them.

In all, it all works to a hefty climax that makes a worthy effort of both practical and digital fx work. Andrew Fleming directs this cult piece under the well written script of Peter Filardi. The film goes on to become a frequent favorite that has been seen quite a few digital iterations over the years. (Note: now with Shout Factory)

I’m going to end this review on that note and a recommendation for new watchers who make have missed it along the way to check it out. It’s certainly one to own so grab a copy per the link below

Bonus 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 Tony Gardner
  • 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 Craft is now available on bluray per Shout Factory

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