REVIEW: ‘The Craft: Legacy’ Can Stand on Its Own

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Everyone has a formative movie. One that they watched, fell in love with, and began pulling parts of it into their personality and identity. The Craft (1996) was that movie for me. It was a film that not only impacted how I dressed and influenced me to take trips to the local Botanica, but it also made me feel accepted. It was okay for me to be weird, I could embrace it. So when I heard about The Craft: Legacy, a new film from Blumhouse and Columbia Pictures, I wasn’t hesitant. While I know other fans of the original were worried when the trailer for The Craft: Legacy dropped, I reserved my judgment. All this movie needed to be was to make the “weirdos” in 2020 feel as at home as the 1996 version made me feel—and, it does, or rather, it can.

Directed and written by Zoe Lister-JonesThe Craft: Legacy is not a sequel. While it is a continuation of  The Craft, it feels more like a piece of the past informing the present. In The Craft: Legacy, Lourdes, Frankie, and Tabby are witches. Embodying Earth, Air, and Fire respectively, they’ve been practicing “the craft” together but have hit a roadblock in their growth. Then, they meet Lilly, a new student who is ridiculed by a boy in one of their classes. When the three girls reach out to her, she reaches back and they become fast friends, especially once they realize that Lilly is their fourth, Water. Like in the original film, the four girls explore their powers and seek to give a little comeuppance to one of the bullies. But, that’s where the similarities with the original end.

The heart of The Craft: Legacy is friendship, in particular, feminine friendship, and exploring it in a way that empowers Lily (Cailee Spaeny), Lourdes (Zoey Luna), Tabby (Lovie Simone), and Frankie (Gideon Adlon), both magically and personally. My only issue with the 1996 film was the fact that the girls had every reason to be angry, and the writing punishes them for it and forces them to turn on one another. Instead, in The Craft: Legacy, the enemy isn’t their power nor each other but the patriarchy. While this point is executed with a heavy hand that utilizes quite a bit of Social media rhetoric, it does the job, and I imagine it will resonate with teen girls, the intended audience.

The Craft: Legacy

Lily is the daughter of a single mom who has finally found a husband. When the two move in with her new step-father and his three sons, it becomes clear that their life isn’t going to stay the same. Instead, Lily is dropped into a hypermasculine environment that is replicated at school and by the boys she interacts with. Gender is the focus of this film, which pushes it into similar territory to 2019’s flop Black Christmas, another Blumhouse film tied to an existing film through name alone. In an effort to be overtly empowering, the four girls band together to save themselves from the patriarchy, and for me, it doesn’t land, just like Black Christmas’ didn’t.

That said, The Craft: Legacy is a necessary film because of what it does outside of the main conflict. While elements of feminine versus masculine power needed a more deft hand, there are more than a handful of moments between the cast that focuses on gender identity, sexual orientation, and ultimately coming of age. One scene comes when Frankie is explaining the inherent superpower women have, birthing babies. To which Lourdes responds, not all women can do that.

And while it’s a poignant response given that not all women want children or struggle with infertility, it is even more important given that Lourdes is a trans character in a lead role played by a trans-Latina actress. This moment opens up the coven from just cis-women and makes an already more inclusive narrative even more-so and expands what feminine power means. Another moment comes when a character the witches have been trying to teach a lesson shows a moment of vulnerability by discussing their sexual orientation with the girls. It’s a moment that features tears, connection, and is a scene that some in the audience could need to feel seen and accepted.

The Craft: Legacy

It’s these moments of connection and strength through vulnerability that makes The Craft: Legacy an important film and ensures that it will have the same magic for a new generation of viewers as it did for me. The film pushes the message that your power can come from your differences. But it’s the deliberate choice to not make the girls turn on each other, to find power together, and to ensure they empower each other that helps this film shine bright, even with all of its faults. While this won’t be a goth awakening like The Craft was for me, it is a film that aims to showcase sisterhood being found when it feels like the rest of the world is coming for you.

But all of this brings me to the main issue with The Craft: Legacy. It didn’t need to be tied to the 1996 film at all. Outside of references like the book they use, the spells they invoke, and a line or two like “We’re the weirdos mister,” there isn’t much that binds this narrative to the original film. In fact, until the final act, any connection is based on easter eggs, and even when the hidden connection is revealed, its addition could be removed and the story would still stand on its own. In fact, this film will suffer, not because of its connection. For fans of the original, this one won’t be dark enough. It won’t tap into the same kind of “weirdos” the original spoke to—which certainly still exists in today’s high school. And there is no nostalgia to hold on to and that’s a shame.

On its own, even with its slightly subpar CGI effects, The Craft: Legacy has a lot of heart and is a powerful story about friendship, growth, and finding yourself, and, in some ways, trusting yourself too. It’s a story of friendship that avoids the “catty” stereotypes and includes more representations of femininity and identity—it wasn’t lost on me that Lourdes had many pictures of the Virgin de Guadalupe on her clothes and magic kit. But because it lives in the shadow of its original, the audience will be hard-won.

In the end, The Craft: Legacy is a good time, a thoughtful time, and one that shows that covens can be a home with the family you choose. If you’re hesitant about checking this one out, I recommend detaching it from the original as much as you can and let these actresses have their own space to tell this story. I promise it’s a good one.

The Craft: Legacy hits Premium VOD on October 28, 2020.

The Craft: Legacy
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    Rating - 6.5/10
6.5/10

TL;DR

In the end, The Craft: Legacy is a good time, a thoughtful time, and one that shows that covens can be a home with the family you choose. If you’re hesitant about checking this one out, I recommend detaching it from the original as much as you can and let these actresses have their own space to tell this story. I promise it’s a good one.