Witchy Wednesdays: The Craft

A column article, Shot For Shot by: Jessica Sowards

Once again Fairuza Balk is a witch.  This time, she is a teenager, it’s the 90s, and she is pissed off! 

The Craft is a different witchy film than the others we have explored so far.  It was targeted at teenagers and that changes everything.  In this film, Sarah (Robin Tunney) is a troubled new student who is trying to move away from a past that included a mother’s untimely death and her own suicide attempt.  At her new school, she is accepted by a group of outcasts.  Nancy (Fairuza Balk), Bonnie (Neve Campbell), and Rochelle (Rachel True) observe her having natural powers and pull her into their coven.  The three become enchanted with their new found powers and each character uses these powers to fix whatever their main problem is (poverty, scars, love, etc). 

As always, magic comes with a cost and the witches learn that you reap what you sow.  They get drunk on money, popularity, and power; however, they don't really care.  Sarah, who seems to be final puzzle piece that completes their coven is disgusted by how evil they become and wants to sever ties with the others.  The three friends turn against her and there is a final battle filled with rage, special effects, and Mildred Hubble on bath salts.

During the late 90s, there was a trend of soft-core horror films that all shared the same feel and tone.  The Craft, Scream, and I Know What You Did Last Summer attempted to steal the horror genre back from the masked stalkers of the 1980s that were being revamped in the umpteenth sequel.   Neve Campbell, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Breckin Meyer, Ryan Phillippe, and Freddie Prinze, Jr.  were just a few names that were slated to become the new Brat Pack of the 90s and starred in these films.  For the most part, it seemed casting directors wore blindfolds as they threw darts to select which actor/actress would star in the next teen flick, but The Craft added former child star Balk to the mix.  I cannot think of any other actress from this crew that could play a crazed, power hungry, sociopath as well as Balk.

As an angry, angst filled teenager, I loved this film.  I followed Balk’s transition from Miss Cackle’s School of nice, kind witches to the angry teenager who was jaded from the harsh world of high school popularity and prejudice. 

Basically, two of the “outcast witches, (Nancy and Bonnie) could have improved their situations without witchcraft at all.  Bonnie was self-conscious due to her skin being horribly scarred.  She was bitter and had to endure excruciatingly painful experimental treatments to try to remove the scars.  She also bore Hollywood’s tale-tale signs of not fitting in, by not appearing to wash or brush her hair for some time. I get that she was embarrassed by her appearance, but she could not help the scarring and people should be able to look past things such as scars.  Her mother needed to invest in some therapy and anti-depressants. Bonnie kept chanting that she wanted to be beautiful on the inside and outside, but she was never beautiful on the inside.

Nancy is basically one scary teenager in this movie.  She is a character that doesn't fit in and seems to thrive on it.  She is one of those people who would catch a stranger staring at her and would stomp and bark at them.  Down deep, she was wounded and hurt, but she wore a mask on the outside along with her Doc Martens, daring anyone to cross her. 

And that concludes the Dr. Phil portion of Witchy Wednesdays.

The filmmakers made smart choices with the special effects for The Craft.  Movies are often hampered by the cheesy and dated special effects, but most of the effects here are practical.  There are lots of insects and snakes adding to the cringe moments and inducing involuntary itching in the viewer.  For whatever reason, whether it was limited budget or limited technology, the few special effects that were used compliment the film.

There are a lot of teenage movie plot problems and casting issues, but, for the most part, this is a fun film to watch.  Check this one out, then blast some Smashing Pumpkins or Green Day with pride, 90s teens!

When Jessica Sowards is not fighting crime, she can be found watching almost any movie that comes her way whether it be good or bad.  She is obsessed with The Muppets and knows a little too much trivia from sitcoms of the 1980s. 

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