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Craft, The: Legacy
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by Peter Sobczynski

"a.k.a. The Craft: Bore"
1 stars

Last year’s remake of “Black Christmas” offered viewers the conceit of female filmmakers taking a familiar horror movie—a genre not exactly famous for its delicate handling of gender issues—and giving the material a more feminist-leaning overhaul that would tap into the concerns of the MeToo era. This was not necessarily a bad idea for a film in theory but in this particular case, it was an odd choice since the 1974 original was actually pretty progressive in terms of its take on female empowerment, especially considering both its genre and the era when it was made, and while the remake did score a couple of points here and there in regards to the sexual politics, it more or less abandoned them in order to proceed with some extraordinarily silly plot developments that transformed the entire enterprise into an absurdity. Now comes “The Craft: Legacy,” a new take on the 1996 teen witch cult favorite that follows almost exactly in the footsteps of “Black Christmas” with one key exception—it doesn’t even bother with presenting any good ideas or even a vaguely compelling rationale for its existence before devolving into the silly stuff.

As the film opens, spunky teen outcast Lily (Cailee Spaeny) is setting off with her mother (Michelle Monaghan) to move in with the latter’s new fiancee (David Duchovny), a Robert Bly-like men’s movement leader, and his three teenage sons. Her first couple of days at school do not go well—there is a scene of public embarrassment that makes her the instant target of harassment of class meathead Timmy (Nicholas Galitzine)—but she catches the eye of fellow outsiders Tabby (Lovie Simone), Frankie (Gideon Aldon) and Lourdes (Zoey Luna). It seems that her new friends are wannabe witches but require a fourth to actually tap into the full potential of their powers.The addition of Lily proves to be just the trick and soon they are thrilling over their newfound powers, even going so far as to cast a spell on Timmy designed to make him more sensitive.

This proves to be successful beyond their dreams as he is soon calling out his buddies for their sexist attitudes while spending his time hanging out with Lily and the others, even confessing the particulars of a secret that has been gnawing at him. Unexpectedly, Lily finds herself developing feelings for him and surreptitiously conjures up a minor love spell to help things along. Alas, tragedy soon occurs and when Tabby, Frankie and Lourdes learn about the spell that Lily cast on her own, it causes a deep schism within their once-tightly knit group. Now on her own, Lily makes certain discoveries about her background that prove to be startling, at least technically, and then finds herself confronting a last-minute plot twist that is, I suppose, inevitable in theory (there would be no reason for the existence of one key character in the narrative otherwise) but which proves to be so absurd in practice that it almost makes the previously mentioned lunatic final act of the “Black Christmas” remake seem plausible by comparison.

Although the original “The Craft” was certainly not without its issues—like too many films of its kind, it grew progressively less interesting in the final reels as the special effects began to take center stage—but I nevertheless found myself admiring it a lot when it first came out and a recent reviewing confirmed that it still holds up pretty well today. Although the concept of hot teen witches was the engine that presumably drove it through the development process, it proved to be a smarter and slyer film than the ads might have suggested and offered some interesting thoughts on the idea of female empowerment that were in short supply in the genre back then. It also featured performances from costars Robin Tunney, Fairuza Balk, Neve Campbell and Rachel True that were charismatic as all get out but which also helped to ground the fantastical story into a recognizable reality that clearly resonated with its fans. In addition, its decent-sized box-office success presumably gave director/co-writer Andrew Fleming the clout to get “Dick,” his hysterical 1999 comedy that viewed that Watergate scandal through the eyes of a couple of initially ditzy but gradually radicalized teenage girls, made and people have had holidays named in their honor for lesser achievements than that.

“The Craft: Legacy” was written and directed by Zoe Lister-Jones, the actress who made her feature debut behind the camera a couple of years ago with “Band Aid,” a quirky indie musical-comedy-drama that I personally did not care for that much but which received enough genuine acclaim from my colleagues to suggest that perhaps a revisit might be in order. Needless to say, that will not be the case with this film, which is both messy and banal in equal measure. From the start, the film seems unsure as to whether it is trying to be a remake of the original, a straightforward sequel or a wholly unrelated narrative presented under the “Craft” banner and winds up flitting between those approaches throughout and failing to do much with any one of them. Other than the initially promising conceit of having the dumb jock go super-woke—not exactly a blazingly new premise but one that does have its amusing moments early on—most of the story is the usual array of familiar cliches that has precious little connection with any contemporary concerns that it could have addressed. After a while, it cannot even be concerned with those and winds up leaving any number of plot developments dangling in the wind as it careers towards its ludicrous climax and a final moment that has absolutely none of the impact that Lister-Jones presumably hopes because a.) those who have seen the original film will have figured it out much earlier, rendering it anticlimactic and b.) will be more or less meaningless to those coming into it unawares.

The most disappointing aspect of the film comes with the handling of the central quartet. Unlike the original film, which at least made some effort to make the characters into individuals and stressed a group dynamic that eventually paid off when they began turning on each other in the final scenes, the film’s primary focus is on Hannah while the other three have essentially been given one characteristic to separate themselves from the others—Tabby is African-American, Lourdes is transgender and Frankie looks enough like a young Pamela Adlon that it will as no surprise to learn that she is indeed Pamela Adlon’s daughter. Largely because she is the only one who has been given anything to do, Spaeny is the only one of the four who really stands out, continuing the actress’s run, following her appearances in “Pacific Rim: Uprising,” “On the Basis of Sex” and “Bad Times at the El Royale,” as being arguably the best thing in projects that ares otherwise not very good. The only other standout performance, for all the wrong reasons, is the one more or less given by Duchovny, displaying levels of somnambulistic sheepishness that he has not shown since the later episodes of “Red Shoes Diaries.”

Granted, the batting average for genre reboots these days has not been especially high but even by those standards, “The Craft: Legacy” is a crushing dull misfire that seems to have expended all of its energy and creativity in conjuring up its title. It hardly even feels like a movie, let alone one that was presumably intended to play in theaters at one point—there are long stretches in which it feels more like a busted pilot for a television series that was at one point destined to appear on a cable network that you have never heard of before. Older viewers will be annoyed with how completely it squanders the goodwill generated by memories of the original while younger ones will just find it to be terminally lame. Both, however, will come away from it feeling as if they have just spent the previous 90 minutes under a boredom spell that proved to be stronger than anything else that the film has to offer.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=33854&reviewer=389
originally posted: 10/28/20 00:09:09
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  28-Oct-2020 (PG-13)
  DVD: 22-Dec-2020


  DVD: 22-Dec-2020

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