I have many thoughts about this movie. I will share them behind the cut.
Ok, first let me say that I think this was almost a good movie. In my world, good and enjoyable are not the same things, and I've actually watched it twice, so clearly I've gotten some enjoyment out of it. The thing is, this movie is very much marketed to teen girls, and I think the folks behind it just kind of figured their core audience wouldn't care if they took certain shortcuts. Given the popularity of this movie, it's pretty safe to say they were right, but I wonder how many of those girls who love The Craft as teens still love it years later, after they've grown out of the awkward years.
Fairuza Balk is amazing in this movie. Seriously, the movie is worth watching solely for her performance. In the earlier parts of the movie, she does this lovely snarky/secretly tortured thing that makes her instantly relatable.
And, well, it helps that her character has by far the most depth out of anyone in the movie. Nancy is given these little "blink and you'll miss it" moments that add up to a pretty three-dimensional character, at least until she goes totally insane. We'll come back to that.
Ok, I'm going to assume you're passingly familiar with the plotline (or have looked up the synopsis on wiki) so I'm going to skip over that part and start nitpicking.
First of all, there's crazy snake dude.
Hey, little girl, come see my snake. What? Why are you running away from me? I have dreams about you!
Ahem. Yeah, ok, he's plenty creepy in a vaguely pedophilic way I'm sure was never intended but that's not my issue with him. From the little he does say to Sarah, it's implied he knows something about her and her powers... and then he's killed and we never hear about him for the rest of the movie. Who is he? Did he know something important, or was he just meant to be oddly persistent in his creepiness? Unresolved issues make me cranky.
Speaking of unresolved issues, we have Bonnie and her scars.
The character arc she's given feels natural and makes a lot of sense. However, I feel like we're getting a truncated version. She's covered in what look like burn scars and is willing to do whatever she can to get rid of them so she can be beautiful and accepted, two things that pretty much everyone on the planet wants but which are insanely important to your average teenage girl. But, um, why is she covered in scars? Seriously, I kept waiting through most of the movie for someone to share the story behind those scars, but it never happened. In the scene this shot is from, she's curled up and pleading with Manon to take her scars, and there's this emotional pain evident that seems like it comes from something deeper than just ostrasization. But no, we're given nothing to go on, and did I mention that unresolved issues make me cranky?
Then there's this scene.
Ok, when legal dude comes and tells them Nancy's not-dad has left them a pretty tidy sum of cash, I can easily believe in her excitement. She obviously has a horrible and possibly abusive relationship with him. There's no affection between them, and the money is enough to bring them up to middle class from poor white trash, which is something Nancy has been concentrating her magic on. Her mom, though? Her mom's excitement just confuses me. Seconds earlier, her mom was utterly distraught over her husband or boyfriend 's death. (I'm not entirely clear on the nature of the relationship here, although I guess it doesn't matter.) Once she hears there's money, though, dead dude is totally forgotten and she is giddy over having money to spend. It's not even a momentary thing, because in the next scene we see her, she's squeeing with Nancy's friends over the pretty new things she's bought and trying to convince them to join her for a housewarming party. That's, uh, a pretty dramatic 180 and is probably enough grounds for legal dude to have some serious suspicions as to the nature of dead guy's death.
Then we come to some pretty strong scenes in the movie.
Their Invocation relies heavily on mood, but there are a couple of revealing character moments here, and it creates a nice little mini-climax before we discover the fallout:
Did I mention Fairuza Balk is wonderful in this movie? The girls' request from Manon for more power has been granted, which results in Nancy taking a stroll across the water and the beginning of her descent into madness. She's just crazy enough to creep her friends out, especially when she delights in all the sea critters beached by the storm ("These are my gifts!") but she hasn't quite gotten to actual scary levels yet.
Unfortunately, after this point Bonnie and Rochelle become background characters who don't do much but obey Nancy's whims for reasons I can't quite fathom. There's a deleted scene which offers a little more insight into their friendship and loyalty, but I'm not convinced it's enough for them to follow her into premeditated murder.
To this point, all the deaths in the movie were accidental or coincidental, depending on how you perceive things. Apparently Bonnie and Rochelle are pretty content to kill off someone who was supposed to be their friend when Nancy gives the word, though. No protests or anything. Um, okay then.
Which brings me to what is unquestionably the best scene in the movie.
Nancy is totally unhinged and is full-out using her powers for the sake of revenge, fear, and murder. Everything just comes together in this scene and it's amazing.
This bring me to my biggest issue with the movie. This scene is not the climax of the movie, but it's pretty much all downhill from here. The rest of the film starts to move very fast. It's too fast, actually, like the filmmakers got tired of all this and just wanted to wrap things up as quickly as possible. Frankly, I think The Craft could have used an extra 20 minutes. Really, that should be enough time to resolve most of the issues I've brought up. Gives you enough time to delve into Bonnie's backstory, to make even a passing reference to creepy snake guy, and to flesh out some motivations near the end. Even Nancy's motivations towards the end become open to interpretation.
I've actually heard a few different versions of what Nancy's up to near the end, but since this is my ramble, here's what I got out of it. The aforementioned best scene happens because Sarah cast a love spell on the guy she's crushing on and it gets out of control and he tries to rape her. Upon hearing about this, Nancy is outraged and decides this guy needs to be punished, so she kills him. Sarah's response is to be horrified and she tries to bind Nancy's powers so nobody else will get hurt.
Nancy feels betrayed, and when the outrage sets in, well, it gets mixed up with that whole insanity thing and results in Sarah needing to be punished. None of this is stated explicitly, of course, and it's possible I'm reading too much into this because I want what started out as a deliciously complex character to remain so, but Nancy isn't any more content to just kill Sarah than she was to just kill Rapey McRape. In both cases, she wants to torment them for awhile first, because it's not much good to punish someone after they're already dead.
At any rate, there's some pretty decent buildup to the final confrontation between Nancy and Sarah, but the fight itself feels anti-climactic.
Given the elements they're working with here, that's a really sad statement.
And then you have the denouement. Bonnie and Rochelle have lost their powers and are totally sorry about that whole, y'know, trying to murder you thing. Sarah, having been the only one who resisted using her powers to run around and kill people gets to keep her magic, since she'll obviously be able to use them wisely and she proves it by... causing a tree branch to fall on the other girls?
That's not just a little branch, either.
Well, Bonnie and Rochelle have no magic, Sarah has no friends, and Nancy gets committed. All is well with the world?
You'll note I really never mention Rochelle, even though she's supposed to be one of the major characters. This is not because she's presented without flaws. It's because she doesn't really do much of note. She's pretty much there to be the requisite token, the black chick to break up what is otherwise a very white movie. And her little subplot/motivator is that she's black. I could have a lot to say about that, but it's been said before better than I could do, so I'll just leave it at that.
Ok, I think there actually is a lot to like in this movie. First of all, it really does tap into the awkwardness of being a lonely teenage outcast, and I have no doubt that's why it's enchanted teenage girls for the past 15 years. I just feel like with a little extra effort, it could have gone from something that's merely entertaining to something good and entertaining. The base is there, it just needed a little extra love.
And Fairuza Balk is wonderful.
All screencaps came from adolwyn, who has my huge thanks, because screencaps of The Craft are ridiculously hard to find on the internet for some reason.