[Review] ‘THE CRAFT: LEGACY’ is how a legasequel is done

0

Preston Barta // Features Editor

THE CRAFT: LEGACY

Rated PG-13, 94 minutes.
Director: Zoe Lister-Jones
Cast: Cailee Spaeny, Lovie Simone, Gideon Adlon, Zoey Luna, Michelle Monaghan, Nicholas Galitzine and David Duchovny

1996’s THE CRAFT is one of my earliest run-ins with the sci-fi/horror genre. It was a film that I watched pretty regularly with my aunt, who, looking back on it, was heavily inspired by the grunge, Hot Topic-like look of the characters. You know the getup from the ’90s — a Nine Inch Nails shirt, a plaid one around the waist, black boots, and a don’t-care attitude to match it. 

The Blumhouse-produced follow-up, THE CRAFT: LEGACY, arrives nearly 25 years later, and it’s fit for a new generation of fans while also honoring the tone and appeal of the original. 

Writer-director Zoe Lister-Jones (2017’s BAND AID), for lack of a better word, crafts a continuation that seamlessly mixes nostalgic flavors with new, kinetic entertainment. It features circle chants, candles, and odd happenings. But it also has an appealingly new cast of imperfect characters whose mistakes, triumphs, questions, and hearts show you how one can dust off a beloved property and make it exciting.

Lister-Jones’s 2020 spin returns us to basics. The Catholic prep school teen girls from the original have been succeeded by a compelling, eclectic group of aspiring teenage witches. This time, the new lead, Lily (a very good Cailee Spaeny), moves in with her mother’s (Michelle Monaghan) new boyfriend (David Duchovny) and his three sons. There’s an unsettling air within this life transition. An embarrassing occurrence on the first day of school leads to Lily becoming a target for bullies like Timmy (Nicholas Galitzine), never to let her forget it.

(l-r) Tabby (Lovie Simone), Lourdes (Zoey Luna), Lily (Cailee Spaeny), and Frankie (Gideon Adlon) deep in conversation in Columbia Pictures’ THE CRAFT: LEGACY.

Fortunately, Lily makes fast friends with Frankie (BLOCKER’s Gideon Adlon), Tabby (GREENLEAF’s Lovie Simone), and Lourdes (POSE’s Zoey Luna), all of whom come to her aid. The unholy trinity of pals sees Lily as a potential completion of their four-member coven. Together, they pursue witchcraft but soon face negative repercussions and hard truths about themselves and their surroundings.

A lot of this plot description sounds strikingly similar to the original film. Much like THE FORCE AWAKENS, the narrative skeleton is relatively the same, but the devil is in the details. It’s not a remake where one of the characters is a loose cannon, and the other has insecurities about their beauty or anything like that. These witches have a greater sense of their powers. That awareness gives it a refreshing quality.

Additionally, Lister-Jones provides a unique commentary on gender politics and the dangers of toxic masculinity. While it gets a tad too preachy and on the nose by the film’s conclusion, for the most part, it’s nuanced. 

What the film is missing, however, are the scares. There are no sequences of hair falling out, a needle driving into someone’s back, or creepy crawlies. To those craving the original’s haunting imagery, you won’t really find it in LEGACY. I’m sure the PG-13 rating held the filmmakers back from going down this road.

THE CRAFT: LEGACY succeeds mostly because of its character dynamics and what can be discovered between the lines. The journey feels legitimate, and the surprises are to die for. Hopefully, Lister-Jones has another sequel in her pocket because stirring possibilities are on the horizon.

Grade: B

THE CRAFT: LEGACY is now available on PVOD.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.