The Craft

Prepare to travel back in time.
"Welcome to the witching hour."

The witching hour to be more specific, was early May, 1996. I promised to spend the whole week reviewing movies without explosions, and technically this follows that. Mostly. Shut up.

When I think about the '90s, no movie to me more embodies the very middle of the era than The Craft. The craft centers around the new girl coming to a catholic high school, where she falls in with three weirdos who practice witchcraft, they all start practicing witchcraft, and then they use it to do really petty, nasty things to all the people who they feel have wronged them in some way. They each represent their own archetype of 'disenfranchised high-schooler who wants to get even. Robin Tunney, following her performance the previous year in Empire Records (though you may better know her today as Special Agent Lisbon on TNT's The Mentalist) portrays Sarah Bailey, a 16 year old girl with suicidal tendencies in her past, along with a history of hallucinations. Neve Campbell, probably best remembered as Julia Salinger on Party of Five or Sidney from the Scream franchise, portrays Bonnie, a girl with severe burns that make her the subject of bullying. Rachel True, who honestly never went to do much of anything (she has since had a handful of bit parts on tv shows and tv movies) plays Rochelle, a girl picked on mercilessly by the popular crowd because they are great big racists, and Rochelle is the only African-American student in the whole school.

Others might call her a shrieking psychopath.
That brings me to Nancy. Crazy wackadoo Nancy. Portrayed by Fairuza Balk (you might know her from The Waterboy, American History X, or Almost Famous) Nancy, is the defacto leader of the coven, until she starts getting edged out by Sarah. She comes from a messed up home life, is the gothy kind of witch, and has what one might call a borderline personality. With the four of them together, they can invoke their aspected pagan god, and gain real magic. Despite warnings about what misuse of their powers could result in, the girls engage in every petty use of power you could think of. They cause harm to befall the mean bitchy popular girl (portrayed by Chistina Taylor, who has had a long successful career, frequently appearing in movies with her husband Ben Stiller; do you remember her in the nickolodeon show Hey Dude?), Sarah makes the popular jock her love bitch (Skeet Ulrich, who has had a prolific career playing in shows and movies that no one cares about. Has anyone else seen Chill Factor for instance?) and Bonnie casts a beauty spell on herself that makes her a conceited jerk. Nancy meanwhile begins to spiral into crazy town, while Sarah begins to have second thoughts about their use of power and so, Nancy decides that Sarah has to go. I won't spoil the details, but suffice to say, things don't go great for poor loony Nancy.

If not for the whole killing people with black magic,
these girls could have come from anywhere in the 90s.
As I mentioned earlier, the girls in this movie are archetypically '90s brand weirdos. This movie also establishes itself in a long and...auspicious line of film and television programs about witchcraft, keeping the dream alive and guaranteeing that we could look forward to years and years of Sabrina the Teenage witch and Charmed. While it might be a cult hit of serious proportion now, and widely considered one of the best movies that feature witchcraft (not really saying much) but it was not well received by critics. Detractors complain about the story being secondary to special effects, or otherwise being underwhelming in its impact. After all, it is focused on a lot of really trivial conflicts, resolved in generally pretty immature ways. I feel the need to remind those people that this movie is about 16 year old girls scorned by their peers. What else would you expect the plot to be except petty? Having magic powers doesn't instantly make you a better, nor a more complex person. Sometimes it just makes you a heavyweight asshole. Not every movie about magic and high school is going to be Harry Potter gang.

As punishment for Neve and Rachel's misdeeds, Robin
took away their careers.
Despite lukewarm critical reception, the movie was a modest box office success, grossing just under 25 million against its 15 million dollar budget. That made it the 8th highest grossing movie featuring witchcraft prominently (the first in that category obviously being The Blair Witch Project, which reeled in more than 140 million dollars). It opened at #1 for its weekend, which is no surprise given that it had no real competition opening alongside it. For anyone who wants to tour the landscape of '90s movies, this film has to be included in your watch list. If you enjoy music that is '90s vintage, you should try and scare up the soundtrack too. It features tracks from such totally forgotten and now insignificant bands as Tripping Daisy, Sponge, and Letters to Cleo!

That's it for this weeks reviews! Next week I will continue our detour with PRETENTIOUS INDIE WEEK, where I talk about a few small budget movies I've seen, and decide if small budget can mean big entertainment. Before we get thoughtful though, on Saturday I will treat us all to some truly abysmal cinema, as I do a rundown of some of the worst movies about animals (animated or otherwise), ranging from the stupid to the just plain creepy.
I'm looking at you Alpha and Omega.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Project Wonderful Ad