The Craft (1996)
[Here’s one of the leftover Halloween Endurance Test reviews. I started watching film as I always do, then stopped once I realized that I had enough time to either review films, or prepare to move to Korea. I went for the safer “prep for Korea” route, so google images lost out on five or six ripped photos to spread across the internet. My apologies to the fans of Neve Campbell and Fairuza Balk.]
Today’s movie is the Craft. It’s the mid-90s film that started the whole Wiccan revolution; causing untold amounts of frumpy, unpopular, high school girls to stop trying to enter the mainstream, and instead celebrate their frumpiness/different-ness. In other words, detestable. I have a feeling that one needs to watch this while wearing black eyeliner and frowning uncontrollably, or else the film’s true meaning will be missed.
The Craft also stars four women who were slated to be Hollywood’s next big thing. Neve Campbell was trying to break from her Party of Five typecasting with the Bonnie role, Nancy (Fairuza Balk) was typecast here as the evil queen witch, and two other witches who obviously made no impression on popular culture. Naturally the witches all go to a private Christian school, , because no one would care that they’re dressing in black if it wasn’t in direct odds with a dress code. No one would bat an eye in public school, have you seen the Substitute?
Hatred of Goths aside, it is rather sad that the film that kept Girl Power alive during the down time between Bikini Kill and the Spice Girls has a plot that’s so boy-centric. Nancy is known as the school slut after sleeping with some boisterous jock, and rather than assert herself, she instead personifies the charge.
After this opening plot point, the film borrows the time-honored girl theme: jealousy. Nancy is the old head witch, and new witch Sarah (Robin Tunney) comes into town and starts stealing her thunder. So a fight is obviously in the works; leaving us with 60 minutes of build-up before it comes to a boil.
The girls start off light, playing “Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board” at sleepovers which proves they have powers. So next they get some revenge on a local jock who’s telling everyone he slept with Sarah. Nothing major, he just becomes infatuated with her, and so become the laughing stock for all his friends. Marcia Brady (Christine Taylor) suffers slightly worse; she tells Rochelle (Rachel True) that they’ll never be friends because Taylor’s character “doesn’t like Negroids,” and loses all her hair for it. Neve Campbell’s character is a cutter, and thus a narcissist. (She’s all about her.) She uses her new powers to cure herself of a skin condition, rather than get revenge.
Nancy changes everything when she makes a Monkey’s Paw-esque wish for money; causing her (abusive) father to suffer a heart attack so her family inherits a life insurance windfall. This profiting from evil causes a pivotal change in the group dynamic, as the other girls eventually become scared of what she’ll do to stay in control. (Nancy’s need for upward mobility also begs the question of how she got into the swank private school to begin with. Seriously, her school was used for the original Beverly Hills 90210, yet she goes there while living in a trailer. The disparity there just doesn’t work out.)
Nancy gives Sara’s charmed boyfriend a well-deserved tirade about his and his friends’ objectification of women, but her tirade rings false, as Nancy’s grudge against Sara is weak at best; Sara wants to quit the group, and apparently must die for it. So the whole “you treat all women like whores” speech is delivered by a woman who turns on a friend due to the shallowest reasoning possible. So she denounces men while personifying every objectionable female stereotype imaginable. Objectification that goes well beyond the script, if the numerous bouncing breast shots director Andrew Fleming filmed are any indication.
Leaving the film with two interesting features. One is how one of the main protagonists transforms into the main antagonist. A switch not as deftly done as the hero-turn in Eli Roth’s Hostel, but still a commendable idea. Most times the good guys are the good guys, and the bad are bad; without any complicating factors mucking things up.
The second interesting aspect is how one of my favorite zines*, Everything I Touch Turns to Shit, took its name from a line here.
*As in a zine that I always read about in my AK Press catalogs and wanted to order, but never actually did. So who knows whether I would have enjoyed it or not, though I’m guessing I would’ve just on the strength of that title alone.