The power of teenage girls, which is often scoffed at, is not a laughing matter in the 1996 film The Craft. Even without the witchcraft, the unchecked intentions that move girls to deviant behaviors, like bodily harm to others or self-enhancements (to a degree, I should clarify), can be as recklessly damaging like social media. In retrospect, the movie is not as girl-supportive as I initially remembered it to be, but what else could a horror-essenced Clueless do?
Sarah (Robin Tunney) arrives to Los Angeles with a saddened past, but tries to move forward when she steps inside a Catholic prep school. The school is not devoid of adolescent sinners — bullies that weaponize sex and reputation, bullies that are straight up racist, bullies that will outcast anyone that doesn’t fit. Out of all the groups Rachel is welcomed to, it’s the three-weirdo (self-proclaimed) set of Nancy (Fairuza Balk), Bonnie (Neve Campbell), and Rochelle (Rachel True) that are rumored to be witches. With the fourth addition needed to make a “circle,” the skill of spellcasting is pursued, reveled in, and pursued even further. Why not — the wishes come true and give them a little more spring in their step. Plus, who could argue with giving a racist alopecia?
But does power make a bully or does that sort of abuse come from within? Everything first feels done in the name of sweet comebacks and poetic justice, but inevitably turns sour. As they get deeper into the employee benefits as working witches, Nancy learns to Invoke the Spirit, which aggrandizes the spells’ effects and effectively worsens for everyone involved. At least, for those with a guilty conscience. Sarah tries to stop things from getting worse, but in the witch-mob (a historical oxymoron?) mentality, the girls try to stop Sarah.
I haven’t seen last year’s remake, but if The Craft can be personified to today’s relatability, it’d be as a major influencer. It even was one when I was growing up; the Bayville Sirens in the animated X-Men: Evolution rotoscoped the film’s power stride, while TikTok fashion has quite genuinely rotoscoped every outfit, choker, and hairstyle onto Gen Z. In one of my favorite mixtapes, Charlie XCX sampled Nancy’s “he’s sorry” in Heartbreaks and Earthquakes, disturbing the otherwise chilly buzz that predates her hyperpop era. Hailing to the guardians of the watchtowers of each cardinal direction may not lead to great decisions, but at least they look hip doing it.
dir. Andrew Fleming
Playing at the Cinema Salem on Friday, October 22 @ 7:30PM!
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