The original version of The Craft is a movie that has never gone away. Written and directed by Andrew Fleming, who also made one of my favorite (and most derivative) slashers, Bad Dreams, and screenwritten by Peter Filardi (Flatliners) with direction from producer Douglas Wick, who wanted to mix the high school experience with witchcraft, the stories that it tells have continued to engage audiences since it came out in 1996.
This Blumhouse reimagining/sequel had the opportunity to be interesting. Would it take a whole new pass at the story? Would it refer to anything from the past? Or would it be a muddled mess that tries to have a little of both?
This new version has the same problem with so many reimagining: instead of either giving you a new look at an old story or moving past the origin to tell the real story that people want to see (doing so here will necessitate a big spoiler, so I’ll explain more at the end of this after plenty of spoiler space), this just tells a new origin and sets up characters without creating a single memorable moment or character that you come back to and want to know more about.
The original four girls — Sarah, Bonnie, Nancy and Rochelle — each had their own reasons for turning to witchcraft. They all had their own issues, personalities and even styles. And almost 25 years later, I can still tell you about them and how their individual stories all come together.
I just watched this movie last night and I can not tell you a single identifiable thing about the three supporting characters that make up the witches other than two (Frankie and Lourdes) are interchangeable brunettes and Tabby is a black girl who jokes that she doesn’t like Beyonce. We learn nothing of their home lives, their challenges and who they want to be in this world, only that they feel ostracized and they feel the need to turn to the left hand path.
Lily Schechner is the girl who will be their fourth, completing their coven. She’s new in town, as her mom has moved to a new town to live with Adam Harrison (David Duchovny) and his three sons. Maybe I’ve grown too old, but every boy in this movie felt so interchangeable that I had difficulty figuring out which one was their friend Timmy and which were the three brothers.
In fact, why did there even have to be three brothers? None of them are truly essential to the story at all, with the oldest being a cipher at best and a living jump scare at worst. They are interchangeable stock characters that you could remove from this movie and still end up in the same place. Even the villain — spoiler, it’s Duchovny) never really seems to gain any steam or even appear to be much of a threat.
Zoe Lister-Jones, who wrote and directed this, never really sets up any tension. Again, I must refer to the first movie, where it seemed like without magic, the girls’ lives would be meaningless. Nancy, for example, has a life so depressing that you wonder why it took her so long to go completely off the deep end. Her reveal as a sociopath and the girls must working together to stop her tragic unraveling speaks volumes. The moment where the girls realize that getting everything they wanted still leaves them wanting more is as well. Not a single moment happens in this movie that comes within a newt’s eye of that.
That said, Lister-Jones based much of the film and its characters in her own adolescent experiences as a misgendered youth. She also moved with her mother into a home of all men, so she had to adapt. This is the only part of this film that seems true to me.
Now, after adequate spoiler space, I’ll tell you the problem.
Have you ever seen the Jem and the Holograms movie? It spent so much time telling you the origin story — which took 22 minutes in the original cartoon — that the moment you want to see, Pizzazz and the Misfits vs. Jem and the Holograms, is relegated to a post-credit scene of a perfectly cast Kesha threatening to ruin the happy ending.
Here, Lily learns with about ten minutes left in the film that she’s adopted. As we get to the end credits, we follow her to a hospital where she gets to meet her birth mother…Nancy Downs (Fairuza Balk). The story of what happened, why Nancy is still in an asylum and how she could have had a daughter, as well as what happens next, is way more interesting than what we just watched.
The frustrating thing of Blumhouse — the studio who made a Black Christmas that seemed more like The Skulls and a Halloween that spent inordinate time discussing sandwiches and peanut butter on private parts than having The Shape murder people — is that they will eventually remake every horror movie worth anything. Sure, we’ll always have what came before, but for some young folks, their first exposure to something great will be a watered-down modern reimagining that’s missing the word imagination.