Among all the witchcraft-themed media from the ‘80s and ‘90s — a bountiful, gorgeous genre — one stands out: The Craft. It is a nearly perfect film, excelling in all tropes integral to the category: good outfits, aggressive sisterhood, cute spells easily done at home, having a cover of “How Soon Is Now” by the Smiths on the soundtrack.
When I first heard of a forthcoming Craft reboot, I had my misgivings. It seemed like an act of extreme hubris to re-create something that’s so gracefully withstood the test of time, especially given the dull tendency among contemporary rebooters to make everything dark and intriguing and over-serious. Today, a trailer has emerged from the ether to confirm my worst suspicions.
While the original Craft does have dark and intriguing moments — attempted ritualistic murder, for instance — its charm lies in the fact that it makes witchcraft seem chill and aspirational, a nice bonding activity between friends (at least up until the attempted ritualistic murder). It starts in a typical teen-movie fashion: A new girl (Sarah) moves to a new town and has to find her place at an unfamiliar high school. Being a witch herself, she falls in with a clique of three other witches, who are generally feared and despised by their peers and appear to buy their school uniforms at Hot Topic. The foursome are clearly the coolest kids in school — despite being incredibly unpopular and occasionally wearing suspenders with their mini-skirts.
What I love about the film is that, in my interpretation, it’s mostly about some friends having a great time doing spells, giving each other makeovers, hanging out with a pagan deity named Manon, taking trips to the beach so they can harness the power of lightning in a great and terrible show of power, etc. In short, a stylish and engaging celebration of typical girl stuff.
A lot about the trailer for the updated version, titled The Craft: Legacy, seems to betray the spirit of the original: It is somber, muted, and set to a haunting cover of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” though no one seems to have fun at any point. The Sarah character is given a pair of beefy and menacing stepbrothers for whatever reason; magic is depicted as inherently sinister; worst of all, everyone is dressed as though someone dropped them off outside an Urban Outfitters in the fall of 2014 and was like, “We’re going to grandma’s house, you have 35 minutes to change into something that won’t upset her.” (The main character wears a pearl headband and dangly pearl earrings to a rave!!!) There is a traumatizing moment with a period, which is both hopelessly clichéd and an affront to the Triple Goddess.
The only bad thing about the original Craft is that the witches faced consequences for their wanton spell-casting — it culminates with the rest of Sarah’s coven going mad with power, covering her house with snakes and other loathsome creatures, and trying to murder her. I find this outcome unlikely. I imagine that teen witches would just keep vibing with Manon, as there is nothing inherently corruptive about dabbling in the occult. If the reboot seems like it will be awful, it’s because it fails to understand that point.
Personally, I’d like to see a Craft 3, where witches in good outfits become close friends, do lots of magic, exert divine justice on bullies as they see fit, and aren’t any worse off for it. That would simply be the representation we need.