tek's rating: ½

The Craft (R)
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Caution: potential spoilers.

This came out in 1996, and it's definitely very mid-90s. I had it on VHS at one point, probably in the late 90s, and I wasn't that into it, so I gave my tape away. But when I later started doing movie reviews on my site, I'm sure I always wanted to see it again so I could review it. And I expected I might like it better than I did the first time I saw it. I finally got it on DVD in 2017, and I think I did like it a bit more... but maybe not quite as much more as I'd hoped I would. None of the details of the plot rang any bells when I watched it again. I think the most I could say that was familiar about it is that it was about four teenage witches.

So, there's a girl named Sarah Bailey (Robin Tunney), who moves from San Francisco to Los Angeles with her father and stepmother. (Her biological mother died giving birth to her.) We don't really learn too much about Sarah's past, except that she had attempted suicide. The reason for that is unclear. Anyway, after moving to L.A., she soon falls in with three sort of goth girls about whom there are various rumors in their Catholic school, the most notable of which is that they are witches. And that seems to be true, although the film gives the impression that there are "natural" witches, who have innate supernatural powers (Sarah is one of these), and then there are people who, I guess, sort of decide to become witches (and they may or may not be successful in this). The girls Sarah befriends are the latter type. Their leader is Nancy Downs (Fairuza Balk), who is obviously the most bitter of the group. Partly this seems to be because her family (including her mother and abusive stepfather) are poor. And partly it's because she was apparently rejected by a guy named Chris (Skeet Ulrich) at some point, or because they hooked up and then he rejected her and trashed her reputation. Or something. Anyway, when Sarah moves to town, she and Chris soon become interested in each other, which obviously sets up some brewing animosity between Nancy and Sarah. The other two members of their "coven" are Bonnie Harper (Neve Campbell), who is deeply troubled by her burn scars (though we never learn how she got them). They're just on her back, as far as I can tell, so it's pretty easy for her to keep them covered, but it's still a major issue for her. And there's a girl named Rochelle Zimmerman (Rachel True), who is on the school's swim team, and her main problem is harassment by a racist teammate named Laura.

Well... it seems like once Sarah joins the other three girls, all their powers begin to increase. Which allows each of them to improve their respective situations. For Sarah, this means casting a love spell on Chris, whose initial interest in her had soured after she didn't immediately give in to his advances, which resulted in his spreading lies about her. Honestly, I have no idea why she was still interested in him after that, but whatever. It helps advance the plot, which basically means Nancy and her friends turning against Sarah. And that's when things really start getting scary.

That's all I want to say about the plot. But it's kind of a fun movie, and probably more so for people who first saw it as teenagers in the 90s. It's a bit of a cult classic of that era, I guess. I still don't think it's a particularly great movie... Like, really, the supernatural aspect is all that sets it apart from countless other movies about angsty teenagers, or specifically angsty teenage girls. And it really takes awhile for the supernatural elements to start getting interesting. But in a way, I think that's kind of a good thing. You might call it a slow burn. Or... I dunno, I have this vague idea that crossing a middling teen angst flick with a middling supernatural flick somehow raises the bar on both aspects. I'm not sure it makes any kind of sense or can really be explained. Maybe it's just a 90s thing. Or a nostalgia thing. Or maybe it's just sheer magical thinking, willing it into being a good movie. Whatever. There's really no need to explain why cult movies become cult movies. (And certainly I'm far from the best person to even attempt to explain it, with this movie. I'm sure lots of people enjoyed it a lot more than I ever could, and I say more power to them. But I do like it. Somewhat.)

Also maybe I'm not precisely the target audience.


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