'The Craft: Legacy' review: A film that will fire up audiences and haunt their dreams

PETER TRAVERS
·3 min read

Anything for Halloween? If you’re into witches, the treats keep coming.

"Roald Dahl’s The Witches started streaming last week. "Hocus Pocus," a revival of the 1993 cult film starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Bette Midler, is currently being revived in theaters still open during the pandemic and is doing shockingly good business. "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina" commences its much-awaited season 4 on Netflix in December.

Right now, though, for the price of a 48-hour rental, fans of witches who don’t need broomsticks can gather around the cauldron of "The Craft: Legacy," the sequel to Andrew Fleming’s 1996 frightfest about teen witches (all hail Fairuza Balk) whose black magic became a symbol of female empowerment.

Back then "The Craft" earned meh reviews and so-so box-office until the digiverse discovered it as a call to arms in the #MeToo era.

MORE: 'The Witches' review: The Anne Hathaway film is a fright-fest that won't settle for skin deep

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Though the connection between "The Craft" and "The Craft: Legacy" isn’t made clear until the film’s eerie climax (I’ll never tell), the premise is similar.

Lily, played by Cailee Spaeny of "Devs," feels like an outsider, even more so when her mother, Helen (Michelle Monaghan), moves Lily into a new house dominated by her alpha boyfriend, Adam (David Duchovny), a male self-help guru, and his three sons. Lily feels instantly alienated.

PHOTO: A scene from 'The Craft: Legacy' (Sony Pictures)
PHOTO: A scene from 'The Craft: Legacy' (Sony Pictures)

Luckily, on her first day at her new high school, she bonds with three witchy riot girls who are also up against toxic masculinity. They are Frankie (Gideon Adlon), Tabby (Lovie Simone) and Lourdes (Zoey Luna).

As in the first film, these witches three are looking for a fourth to move their basic magic up a notch. And not just by shape-shifting into Kristin Stewart. Lily doesn’t know her own mojo yet, though she’s happily surprised when she sends the bullying jock Timmy (Nicholas Galitzine) crashing into a wall of lockers, just by thinking it.

MORE: 'The Devil All the Time' review: How the gothic film pushes the limits

If the movie was just a series of jolts about fledgling feminists forming a coven, and getting even on mean girls and dudes through witchcraft, this new take on "The Craft" wouldn’t be much of a legacy.

But writer-director Zoe Lister-Jones ("Band Aid") is hunting bigger game about young witches finding their power and learning to be responsible about it. Lily breaks the rules by putting a love spell on the suddenly woke Timmy with tragic results. Most horror films bury subtext in flashy pyrotechnics. "The Craft: Legacy" is a welcome exception.

The theme of being seen and understood runs through "The Craft: Legacy" as Lister-Jones and her all-female crew put equal importance on getting the feelings of the movie as right as the scares.

The actors stay on her wavelength. Spaeny is a find, as is Luna, playing a Latina transgender activist much like her real self. It’s a shame the movie peters out with a sequel-begging climax that wastes time on delivering shocks instead of developing character. But instead of a Halloween horror throwaway, Lister-Jones has crafted a movie of the moment -- with the Supreme Court about to challenge women’s rights -- that means to fire up audiences as well as haunt their dreams. Game on.

'The Craft: Legacy' review: A film that will fire up audiences and haunt their dreams originally appeared on goodmorningamerica.com