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The Craft Movie Review

Arts And Entertainment

The Craft Movie Review


As a fan of the teen movie genre and pretty much any witch related media, The Craft is a movie that immediately intrigued me when I first found out about it in high school. Released in 1996, this teen horror film follows new girl Sarah Bailey who moved to Los Angeles from San Francisco and quickly befriends a group of outcast girls at her new school known by their peers as “The Bitches of Eastwick.” This group of girls includes Nancy Downs, the stand-offish goth girl who lives in a mobile home with her mother and abusive stepfather, Bonnie Harper, the bookish shy girl with burn scars to boot, and Rochelle Zimmerman, who we see is a victim of racial discrimination and bullying by girls on her swimming and diving team. In the first scene of the three girls, we learn that they are looking for a fourth girl to “complete the circle.” When Bonnie sees Sarah make a pencil stand upright in class, she knows that Sarah has to be their fourth.

Sarah begins to grow close to the girls after a date with a football player and all around jerk, Chris. After the date, which ended after Sarah refused to sleep with Chris, he began spreading rumors around school that Sarah was awful in bed. As the girls grow closer, we learn that Sarah’s biological mother passed away while Sarah was young, and that she attempted suicide before she moved to San Fransisco. We also learn that the other three worship an entity known as Manon, who they describe as an all encompassing force that permeates all of life and grants them the power to perform their witchcraft. This is when The Craft is at its strongest, when it is displaying the bond between the girls, the collective power they possess, and the rituals they perform to tap into this power. 

The ritual scenes were really effective at selling the witchcraft fantasy with beautiful artifacts, candles, and other witchy items decorating their shrines to Manon. During the first scene in which the girls intentionally perform a ritual, they take turns holding a dagger to one of the others’ chest and reciting “It is better that you should rush upon this blade than to enter the circle with fear in your heart. How do you enter?,” to which each girl responds “with perfect love and perfect trust,” followed by a kiss. They then each put a drop of their blood in a chalice of wine and cast a spell. Sarah wishes for Chris to be enamored with her, Rochelle wishes for revenge against her racist bully, and Bonnie wishes for “beauty, inside and out.” Nancy’s wish is less specific, as she asks for “all the power of Manon.” This moment acts as a turning point for Nancy’s character; the clearly troubled but ultimately loyal and daring girl is replaced by a jealous, insecure, and power hungry villain.

The final act of the film is the weakest as it undermines many of the themes that were laid out in the first hour. The camaraderie between the girls completely falls apart as Nancy becomes power hungry and jealous. Nancy, using a “glamour spell,” makes herself look like Sarah and tricks Chris into having sex with her. Of course the ultimate falling out between Nancy and Sarah had to be centered on a man, despite the trust and love for each other they displayed for one another as they practiced their witchcraft. The conflict over Chris escalates after Nancy sends Chris tumbling to his death out of a window, and Sarah tries to place a spell on Nancy to prevent her from causing more harm. Following this, Bonnie and Rochelle randomly turn on Sarah as well. While all the girls did begin to butt heads as Nancy grew more and more unhinged, it seemed unusual for the original trio to suddenly turn on Sarah and want her dead. 

The entire first hour of these young girls exploring their powers together and utilizing them to overcome the traumatic events in their lives is ultimately cheapened by the lackluster (and problematic) conclusion that jealousy (over a man) can drive a girl crazy… literally. In the final shot of the film, Nancy is in a psychiatric ward strapped to her bed as she screams about the powers Manon has given to her. Bonnie and Rochelle are also stripped of their powers, while only Sarah’s remain.

The magic of this film comes mostly from Fairuza Balk’s portrayal of Nancy, as well as the costume designers’ work. Nancy’s wide, toothy grin is the perfect pairing with her smug attitude, and her goth look was executed accurately. Inspiration was clearly drawn from the likes of Nina Hagen and Siouxsie Sioux, heavily influential figures in the punk and goth subcultures. The rest of the cast provide average to good performances, but Balk easily steals the show despite her overall poorly written character.

Overall, The Craft is an extremely strong hour of supernatural teen drama with a relatively disappointing climax and conclusion. While I respect the overall message that power can corrupt and can cause people to do harm unto others, it was disappointing to see the relationship the girls built come crumbling down as their acts of defiance against their circumstances ultimately come back to bite them. I also dislike the trope that Sarah fulfills as the “naturally gifted” witch whose powers derive from her bloodline (in the last act it is revealed that Sarah’s mother was also a witch). The “Heroic Lineage” trope is one that is constantly utilized in fantasy media to explain away a character’s inherent abilities, and I always feel as if it is a cheap and unsatisfying answer to the source of a character’s powers. Despite all of its flaws, of which there are many, The Craft will always remain one of my favorite Halloween season films due to its fun integration of witchcraft within the lives of four teenage girls experiencing tragic circumstances. With more coherent thematic messaging and a stronger conclusion, The Craft would be an instant classic in my books. Flaws and all, I highly recommend The Craft for a Halloween watch with your friends to get into the witchy mood and invoke the spirit of Halloween.

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