Good points and bad points to The Craft’s Legacy film; ideal for its teen audience, but they deserve better writing too.
Three young witches, Lourdes (Zoey Luna), Frankie (Gideon Adlon), and Tabby (Lovie Simone) welcome the new girl, Lily (Cailee Spaeny) in school to make up their numbers and help her navigate some tricky domestic issues. The Craft: Legacy is more about girls than witchcraft, but as a present-day follow-up to the 1996 film, that’s ok. There were some aspects of The Craft: Legacy that stood out positively to me, a couple I didn’t like, but most of it faded away by the time I got home from the cinema. Shame. Let me start with the good points.
The coven in this film, like its predecessor, are the odd ones out at school (what my Dad used to call the “lame ducks” when I was that age), and they kind of represent anyone who’s picked on or struggles to fit in. Through the girls’ magic, the film carries a message that it’s fine to be different, which I’ve come across in many films in recent years; but The Craft: Legacy also brings with it a slogan for outcasts: “Your difference is your power”. I like it, and would probably claim it for myself if I was – shock horror! – thirty years younger.
The world of contemporary teenagers is as sharply realized as in De Palma’s Carrie: alternately cool, bitchy, awkward, and coping with biology, parents, and current trends. The central four in the story, the coven, are kind and supportive friends, and there’s a strong sense that this is what a young person needs to face the world. Don’t ask me, but I’m led to believe the “teen talk” in Legacy is spot on, and as that’s the audience, fine by me (some of it did come with translation for us middle-aged types).
What stood out for me most of all was the queer representation. A couple of years ago, I noted that Love, Simon was the first film from a major studio to have a gay central character. The Craft: Legacy included a trans girl, significantly portraying a trans girl; no pretending. In addition, there was a scene in which the biphobia young men can experience was expressed painfully and authentically. I have never seen this topic raised, let alone with this respect, in any mainstream film. Now I’m aware many people may say this is too “politically correct”, but personally I love seeing society presented as diversely on screen as it is in real life, and the more people can see themselves reflected in film as they grow up, the less shame they are likely to feel for being “different”. Thankfully, that shame is less prevalent amongst teens now than it used to be (though still widespread); hence, writer and director Zoe Lister-Jones was able to bring these characters to life as regular people.
And then there was David Duchovny, playing Adam, who Lily’s mother (Michelle Monaghan) is moving them in with. He was the one actor who impressed me in The Craft: Legacy, rather than any of those playing teenaged girls. Gone was Fox Mulder’s softness, or Denise Bryson’s warmth: Duchovny’s Adam was a strict parent and a firm leader for his three sons; and potentially other men. Yes, there was an odd “Iron John” type reactionary male about his character, but the acting was sound: I have not seen Duchovny play threatening before, and he carries it well, now that the boyish look has faded.
As positive comments go about a middling film, those are some pretty strong points I’ve given above; so what was wrong with it? Well, the good message, representation, world of the characters, and a sound actor are usually additional strengths on top of a solid script underneath. They won’t carry a film on their own. The key problem with The Craft: Legacy is the writing and in several respects.
The majority of the characters were barely even two-dimensional. Lily’s story had an arc, sure, but her personality did not develop. Her three witchy friends were drawn with a felt-tip pen and weren’t even given any context. OK, so there was one secondary character who changed from bully to gent, but this was due to witchcraft, not any development as such, and it simply gave him two personalities (if you can call them that), rather than breadth.
The plot of The Craft: Legacy left way too much unexplored. There are the coven characters I just mentioned, but even more than them, the family that Lily and her mother were joining. Adam and his three (also biblically-named) sons were clearly a strong unit, but we didn’t get to spend time with any of the boys except for the youngest, and Adam must have been inspired by the (excuse the aged spoiler) android Ted from Buffy the Vampire Slayer; unoriginal, with an apparent mystery to be dug away at. I really wanted to know more about these people, especially the “groups” that Adam met with on his trips away, but there were only hints.
The Craft: Legacy has little real value as a story in its own right, but only in the link that it forms to Andrew Fleming’s The Craft from nearly a quarter of a century ago. I’ve got no problem with that length of time between films – and it does make sense, having watched them – but there is an important scene (not much more than a moment, in fact) that means this film too simply has to have a sequel. Without it, fans would be left hanging, and because of that scene, The Craft: Legacy can never be expected to stand on its own.
Oh, I did like some of the cinematography, such as the overhead shots and the coven’s magical auras. I’d virtually forgotten until it was time to put together this review, mind you, so it clearly didn’t stand out as well as the film’s few strengths I mentioned above.
Alix has been writing for Ready Steady Cut since November 2017. They cover a wide variety, including genre festivals, and especially appreciates wit and representation on screen.