RogerBW's Blog

The Craft 23 April 2019

1996 horror, dir. Andrew Fleming, Robin Tunney, Fairuza Balk: IMDb / allmovie. When Sarah moves to a new high school, she reluctantly falls in with the witchy crowd; but first the power is surprisingly real, then it's surprisingly hard to handle.

This could so very easily have been Satanic Panic: The Movie… but it isn't. It's one of the earlier films about supernaturalism not to say "oh, it's just Bad" but to treat it simply as a tool – it's when the people using it can't cope with the power, and instead use it to indulge their selfishness, that things go wrong.

While the script is generally solid, characterisations for the leads are rather lacking and their performances are a bit one-note; Robin Tunney (in a very 1980s-hair look, perhaps because her head was shaved for her role in Empire Records and she did the whole thing in a wig) is Nice, Fairuza Balk is a Bad Girl, Neve Campbell has an actual character arc (from scarred-and-self-pitying to sexpot) and Rachel True is Not White. There's some natural talent visible, but one feels that a firmer directorial hand could have improved matters substantially.

Some of the supporting players do rather better, including Skeet Ulrich as a jock in the throes of toxic masculinity ("When you're a guy, and I am, people expect things"), and particularly Assumpta Serna in a small part as a magic-shop owner who does her best to give good advice except that nobody listens. There's some effective camera work, and while the mirror motif in the second half may be a little overplayed it still gets the job done.

I admit I'd expected a bit more from a film often described as a cult classic; it's surprisingly slow-paced and flat at times, perhaps expecting to cruise on its leads' charisma. But it's a neat story about a world with practical magic in it, with a distinctly better plot than I usually expect from such things.

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