In the same manner that Amy Heckerling’s Clueless is capturing what defined the 1990’s inside of a high school film from the perspective of the popular girl, Andrew Fleming’s The Craft attempts to pull off something else but from the point of view of the outcasts. While there’s a glory that comes out from watching The Craft in its best moments as it is certainly able to provide some genuinely suspenseful moments, what then follows is something that just feels so unsatisfactory as it just never finds itself providing what more it had promised from the many good sequences that come about for it soon follows up on something so uneventful afterwards. The best way to describe The Craft is that it only half delivers, and the other half is just something that leaves one cold.
Like any other high school film, The Craft is indeed another film about a clique, but this time the “weirdos” get the focus and they actually have something behind them. These “weird girls” are actually witches who use their powers for their own gain, and worship a deity named “Manon.” The film is set up interestingly, with the discovery of Fairuza Balk’s Nancy, seeing that Robin Tunney’s Sarah can perform magic while inside of a class. She joins the group, which also includes Neve Campbell and Rachel True. It’s so fascinatingly set up from the moment all four of the girls come together but it begins to crumble really quickly from there onward, among many disappointments to be had.
What I like about the film is how it sets up moments of suspense and ultimately how they are executed by the end. Especially within the first half of the film, The Craft always feels so proud enough to embrace the time period in which it had come out in order to enhance its very own spirits – something that gives the film the charm it carries. Unfortunately, all of it just comes off as unsatisfied promise because soon enough, The Craft falls down to a specific level of tediousness that ends up taking away from the experience that it said it was going to provide. Granted, there are some entertaining moments in the film interspersed then and there, but that’s really not enough to forgive The Craft for being dull for a good amount of its running time.
The cast is likable, but Fairuza Balk’s performance stands out and not in a good way. She certainly carries a very menacing figure, but her performance is just a cheesy recollection of so many villainous tropes and it becomes much harder to take her performance seriously. Neve Campbell and Robin Tunney are excellent at least when it comes to how they handle the material that they have been given, but there’s absolutely nothing that stands out when it comes to Rachel True’s character – who’s easily the least interesting of the bunch. Whenever the group shares their moments together, there’s a charm which they leave behind that defines such a piece, but it all just adds up to what The Craft really is – just a half-delivered promise.
Perhaps the biggest fault that The Craft has to endure is the script, which is arguably the film’s weakest aspect. Andrew Fleming casually moves along with the script’s disjointed tone, and in turn it only damages what The Craft meant to provide. It wants to be some sort of odd alteration from Amy Heckerling’s Clueless this time from the point of view of the outcasts and now made under a horror light, but it is never going far enough to satirize what ideas it wishes to present in the manner that Clueless had done so. The Craft is never able to find a balance when it obviously heads for a lighter tone for it just drastically shifts to a much more horrific note (the moments in which the film works best) without any sense of clarity or connection to previous sequences, something where the film’s third act falls a heavy victim.
The Craft is a film that should be much more interesting than how it stands, it’s a film that wishes it were Clueless as a horror film but fails to stand out. For every moment of genuine suspense that is provided by the film’s nature, it is soon followed up with a moment of extreme cheesiness whether it be from the fractured script or Fairuza Balk’s awful villain performance, but it’s not something particularly terrible all around. You’ll at least find some charm out of Robin Tunney and Neve Campbell’s performances and there are moments that have their own visual appeal, but that’s only half of what The Craft even promised, and what The Craft should have been.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Columbia Pictures.
Directed by Andrew Fleming
Screenplay by Andrew Fleming, Peter Filardi
Produced by Douglas Wick
Starring Robin Tunney, Fairuza Balk, Rachel True, Neve Campbell, Skeet Ulrich
Release Year: 1996
Running Time: 101 minutes