The long-awaited follow-up to the 1996 cult classic “The Craft” recalls its iconic predecessor in many ways. Just like before, a newcomer at a high school completes a foursome of teen girls who learn to harness their witchy powers. It hasn’t lost the levitation game “light as a feather,” the ominous snakes or the famous line; “We’re the weirdos, mister,” though it’s recontextualized for a climactic moment. When the new girl, Lily (Cailee Spaeny), and her mom (Michelle Monaghan) sing along to Alanis Morissette’s “Hand in My Pocket,” the needle drop will make you wonder if this version takes place in the mid-’90s too.
But Zoe Lister-Jones’s “The Craft: Legacy,” produced by Blumhouse (“Get Out”), is a disappointing distillation of the original that’s mostly devoid of personality. Avoiding the bad apple story line that Fairuza Balk’s Nancy so brilliantly embodied in the ’90s version, this new “Craft” makes toxic masculinity the girls’ greatest enemy (the misogynistic bully falls under a spell that makes him say things like “womxn”). But even that modernization feels predictable.
What made Andrew Fleming’s “The Craft” so spellbinding was the characters’ desperation to escape their problems. This rendition lacks fully developed characters with dark pasts or a dangerous hunger for power. Lister-Jones, who wrote and directed, instead mines an unnecessary amount of embarrassment from menstruation and gives Lily a suspicious stepdad in David Duchovny.
Ultimately, this film lacks a bewitching quality. The witches get a music-video-like montage of their newfound powers, but it feels vapid without a strong motive. Gideon Adlon is given the comic relief role, but the other two friends (Lovie Simone, Zoey Luna) are superficially rendered. With that, this new film also recalls the original in its greatest flaw: by under-writing the characters of color.