The Craft: Legacy is an updated take on the classic film that, while not as scary as the original, is a surprisingly endearing tale of female friendship set against an occult background.
As far as remakes and reboots go, the horror industry hasn’t had the best track record – and that’s putting it gently. For whatever reason, the industry seems intent on churning out rehash after rehash of classic films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Friday the 13th, despite the fact that they’re usually panned across the board.
However, with the release of The Craft: Legacy, it seems we’ve found an exception to that rule. The film takes the female-centric goth horror of the original film and translates it into an updated, almost Euphoria-esque setting for today that makes the story feel as fresh as it was 30 years ago.
Starring Cailee Spaeny, The Craft: Legacy follows high schooler Lily as she moves to a new town with her mother (Michelle Monoghan) and discovers (with the help of three other teenagers) that she’s actually a powerful witch. As she and her friends Tabby (Lovie Simone), Lourdes (Zoey Luna), and Frankie (Gideon Adlon) form a coven and explore their newfound powers, they grapple with high school melodrama as well as paranormal forces seeking to destroy them.
What’s remarkable about the film is how little it resembles a horror movie. There was a mixed reaction when it was first announced that a cult classic like The Craft would be getting a reboot/sequel/remake/whatever you want to call it, but the pushback increased significantly after the news broke that it would be rated PG-13. For the story the film is trying to tell, though, the rating is spot on.
The Craft: Legacy decidedly doesn’t feel like horror – so much so that when we do get a jump scare, it almost feels out of place with the rest of the movie. It’s not scary, it has a low body-count, and instead of focusing on the evil and violent aspects of witchcraft, the film takes the teen drama route, and uses the girls’ powers as a plot device for high school hijinks that makes it feel almost like a coming of age film.
We mentioned that the film feels like “The Craft but through the lens of Euphoria“, and that’s because much of the film is written and stylized to reflect modern sensibilities. Although far too many shows and movies about high schoolers tend to get teen style and speech wrong, The Craft: Legacy knocks it out of the park when it comes to costumes, set decoration, and hair and makeup. The witches themselves dress like they’d fit right in alongside Zendaya and Hunter Schafer, and their rooms (and those of their peers) feel both stylish and true to life – the resident bully has a Lil Xan poster in his room, which made us snort-laugh.
On the subject of the resident bully, much of the film’s narrative centers around Timmy (Nicholas Galitzine), a meathead and bully who endlessly mocks Lily when she unexpectedly gets her period on the first day at her new school. Tabby, Lourdes, and Frankie – the school’s outcasts who are also an amateur coven – come to her aid, and with Lily as their fourth, discover that they actually have magical abilities. Their first act as newly minted witches is to hex Timmy as revenge for tormenting Lily, turning him into what they refer to as “woke” Timmy.
It’s an interesting story beat to turn the antagonist into a sympathetic character, but it works for the narrative the film is trying to tell. This new Timmy is self-aware, feminist, and a loyal, honest friend to the coven, which sparks the girls to reconsider the morality of their actions. Soon, Lily finds herself saddled with a crush on this new Timmy, and uses her powers to cast a love spell, which the rest of the coven argues is a violation of his consent.
It’s a really fascinating angle that could really only have come out of a film set in 2020, but it challenges all the main characters in a new and interesting way. Lily, for her part, is a strong protagonist. Spaeny gives a solid performance, making her easy to root for and empathize with at her lowest moments, while also never losing sight of how much power she wields and keeping the audience ever-aware of how she chooses to wield it. Lily is framed as the ‘good guy’ (as is the rest of the coven), but we have to give the movie props for its moments of moral ambiguity.
The rest of the coven fills out strongly as well – Adlon’s Frankie is the ‘funny one’ of the group and can be a little annoying at times, but when her quips land, they do feel like something a snarky teenage girl would actually say as opposed to Hollywood’s idea of a teenage girl. Simone’s Tabby is solid and serviceable but nothing quite special – through no fault of the actress’ own. She does the best with the writing she’s given, but the script never really gives Tabby much of a discernable personality, or a moment to shine, so for the most part she gets the catch-all dialogue.
Our favorite member of the coven by a long shot is Luna’s Lourdes – the reserved voice of reason of the group, but still, an uber-stylish and fierce teen when she needs to be. Just like her actress, Lourdes is trans, and the film handles her identity incredibly well – it never feels preachy or manufactured, instead her identity is woven into the story seamlessly. There are moments where her friends slip up and make transphobic comments, but they immediately catch themselves and apologize – it feels just like the kind of reaction you’d actually witness in a group of high school girls.
Unfortunately, not all of the film’s dealings with social justice issues play this well. Towards the end of the film, the movie gets a little ham-fisted with its portrayal of the sexist male villain of the piece, whose dialogue basically boils down to “woman weak and bad, man strong and good.” At first, we thought David Duchovny’s character could be an interesting contrast to Lily and her mother who are open-minded and overtly feminist, but any nuance to his character goes out the window by the time the third act rolls around.
The weak third act unfortunately isn’t limited to just the dialogue or feminism – from a narrative standpoint, the film (which for the most part flew by) begins to lose itself near the end. It certainly doesn’t render the film unwatchable, but we can’t help but wish that The Craft: Legacy could’ve stuck the landing a little better because the first 2/3rds of the film are genuinely sweet and entertaining.
Although horror fans looking for a good scare won’t get their thrills here, The Craft: Legacy is an entirely different beast, but no less entertaining. Sweet, funny, and often poignant, the film’s clever dialogue and strong cast make it the perfect witchy teen drama to enjoy this Halloween.
Have you seen The Craft: Legacy? What’s your favorite horror remake? Sound off in the comments below!