Sometimes remakes aren’t a bad idea. Not all movies – regardless of how much they’re loved – ages well. Maybe the effects are too dated. Or perhaps the story hasn’t translated past the period in which it was released. Good ideas can also get lost in bad movies. And occasionally, a filmmaker comes along with a new twist on an old idea. Gore Verbinski’s update of Ringu added interesting subtext alongside excellent scares. And let’s not forget that John Carpenter’s The Thing was a remake. Despite horror fans’ love for The Craft, critics were less enthusiastic about it in 1996. Like it or not, The Craft was not off-limits for the remake treatment. So whether we wanted it or not, The Craft Legacy exists and, contrary to reviews, it’s not a bad effort at an update.
The Craft (1996) Holds a Special Place in 90s Horror Fans’ Hearts
As a horror film, The Craft is light on ‘horror’ and scares. Don’t let the R-rating fool you. Apparently, the MPAA awarded the rating because the movie featured young women playing with the occult. Even as The Craft shifts into its more horror-oriented second half, there aren’t many truly scary scenes. Some imagery near the end may get some jumps out of younger audiences. Regardless of its horror roots, The Craft’s strengths don’t lie in its implementation of familiar genre tropes. This is a light horror movie that would be a good introduction to the genre for younger fans.
Regardless of its horror roots, The Craft’s strengths don’t lie in its implementation of familiar genre tropes.
Arguably, 90’s horror fans fondly recall The Craft for its strong characters, their friendships, and the soundtrack. Any teen who has felt like they didn’t belong will probably relate to the four young women in The Craft. To a large extent this is a movie about acceptance and non-conformity. Unfortunately, the descent into ‘Mean Girls’ territory as the original trio turn against Robin Tunney’s ‘Sarah’ undoes much of its positive depictions of female friendship. But The Craft’s 90s alt-rock soundtrack was just as much a part of its success with fans. With acts ranging from Canadian rockers Our Lady Peace to Love, Spit, Love, Spacehog, and Letters to Cleo, the soundtrack was an all-star roster of mid-90’s alternative musicians.
The Craft Legacy (2020) Worthy of Critical Re-Consideration
In general, The Craft Legacy follows most of the basic plot beats of it predecessor. Yet writer and director Zoe Lister-Jones takes a fundamentally different thematic route. Yes, there are callbacks to The Craft (“We are the weirdos, mister’). On one hand, she puts a distinct Generation-Z spin on the story. The Craft Legacy shifts its conflict from the coven and the corruption of power to an outside threat – the patriarchy. Like the Black Christmas remake, The Craft Legacy is very much about men trying to steal women’s power and, to a lesser extent, consent. Lister-Jones also celebrates female empowerment and friendships – her third act avoids the same slip into infighting amongst the coven as The Craft.
True, The Craft Legacy is – and was clearly intended to be- a PG-13 horror movie for a younger audience. But the scares and suspense are noticeably sparse.
Yet whereas Black Christmas still navigated the genre quite well, The Craft Legacy falters as a horror movie. On one hand, Lister-Jones seems less comfortable with the movie’s horror elements. True, The Craft Legacy is – and was clearly intended to be- a PG-13 horror movie for a younger audience. But the scares and suspense are noticeably sparse. In part this is also a problem with pacing and the absence of a clear threat for much of the movie. Once The Craft Legacy hits its middle act the story drifts. Though Lister-Jones offers occasional hints as to where the movie’s true danger lies, they’re too few and far between. Without a villain to fight, the movie works better as a coming-of-age tale rather as opposed to even a light horror movie.
Both Versions Rightly Earn Their Own Fanbases
To be fair, The Craft is a good horror movie boosted by a fair helping of nostalgia. With its up-and-coming cast, cool soundtrack, and safe approach to horror, it tapped into the cultural zeitgeist of the mid-90s. One could even argue that The Craft benefited from a release date that fell between horror’s lackluster early 90’s period and the impending release of Scream. Comparatively, The Craft: Legacy had no such luck. In addition to having live up to the original’s legacy, it came out amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. If it doesn’t entirely get the horror bits right, The Craft: Legacy does a good job updating and tweaking the story for a new audience. There’s messages about inclusivity and self-empowerment that should earn the remake its own fanbase.