I was first introduced to The Craft by one of my friends who was just as obsessed with all things ’90s and loved the aesthetic of Buffy the Vampire Slayer as much as I did. I of course fell in love with The Craft because I have a weakness for ’90s fashion (along with ’80s; someone please send help) but also because of the way it tried to be more than just your standard “teen” film. The Craft touched on serious topics and refused to shy away from them.
Last year, in fact, was The Craft’s 20 year anniversary, but I think it’s as good a time as ever to take a look back at all of the topics that The Craft covered and, in my opinion, tried to show an honest portrayal of.
Before I start, though, I think it’s important to mention that the witchcraft elements of the film were realistic, as the scenes were filmed “with Pat Devin, a Dianic Elder Priestess, on board as technical advisor.” Therefore, “the four main cast members can be seen practising proper Wiccan rituals throughout the movie.” Fairuza Balk, who played Nancy, is also reported to have become a practicing Wiccan due to the film. In 1995, she bought the store Panpipes Magical Marketplace after filming (though she no longer owns the shop). However, in an interview, the director Andrew Fleming said that at the time of filming, “she was a practicing Pagan,” something I have seen repeated in other articles about The Craft. Either way, out of all the cast members, Fairuza was involved the most with the witchcraft side of the film in her personal life.
Also, the god Manon they reference in the film is not real, and, according to Fleming in the same interview, this is “because it might have been offensive to people if we had used people’s real gods.”
Whether the god they reference is real or not (and I actually agree with their thinking that it is better not to talk about someone else’s god), many credit The Craft for spawning a new generational interest in being a Wiccan, which I think is pretty awesome. The film also made it cool to be different and to standout, or, as Nancy infamously says, “We are the weirdos, mister.”
The Craft, then, is one of the cult teen films, and this is largely because of the way that the film covered several issues that affect teenage life today and were unapologetic about them.
Rochelle (Rachel True) in the film is seen to be the victim of racist bully Laura Lizzie (Christine Taylor). This is significant because it is Laura who is shown to be in the wrong for her horrible behavior (though Rochelle’s magical revenge is also shown to be the right path to go down), and Rochelle is shown to be just as beautiful and talented as she is (perhaps even more so). At the time of filming, True was just happy to actually have a part, which contained more than one line: “A lot of times, the roles I played, I literally say the words ‘Are you OK?’ So this time I got to play a character who actually had something going on.”
This is depressing in itself, but it gets worse. Although Rochelle was as much a lead as Neve Campbell’s character Bonnie was, she recalls that she was not treated the same by the studio during the press junket: “There was a publicity junket that they were only going to take the other three girls to. At the time, 20 years ago, I was like, ‘Oh, it’s me, it’s me, it must be me.’ And now I realize it wasn’t me — it was marketing. They didn’t really think it was going to get a black audience is my guess.”
Therefore, while the film did break boundaries for the time by having a black woman as one of the leads (though it’s upsetting in itself that this was something boundary breaking) and did give her an actual role instead of make her a side character, it’s important to note that she was not treated the same way by the studio higher ups.
The lead character of the film, besides Nancy (Fairuza Balk), is Sarah (Robin Tunney), who reveals to the other girls early on in the film that her scars are from her attempting suicide.
Teen suicide in the ’80s had become an epidemic in the media, yet the subject was still not really talked about. Instead, teenagers were lectured to just say no to suicide (famously satirized by the film The Heathers) but were never actually listened to. In the ’90s, suicide almost became glamorized, along with other dangerous trends such as the “heroin chic” trend for models.
It is refreshing, however, to see that it is not glamorized in The Craft. What we see instead is that Sarah has gone through real pain, yet she is determined to keep fighting. Cutting becomes something nightmarish, and it is the way in which Nancy attempts to kill her. There is nothing glamorous about it. Perhaps this is why the film has such a large cult audience; it does not attempt to lecture teenagers but actually tries to authentically connect with what teenagers are going through.
Horrible Home Life
Nancy is truly the most tormented of the girls. It’s revealed she has a horrible home life in which her mother is an alcoholic and her mother’s boyfriend also appears to be a deadbeat (but actually leaves them a lot of money through his life insurance policy that surprises both Nancy and her mother).
However, even the death of her mother’s boyfriend doesn’t help, as Nancy’s mother remains as frantic as ever. The only happy moment we see between the two of them is when they learn the news about the money, and even then it is tarnished by Nancy’s guilt as she knows she is the one who killed him.
The film also talks about high school and its damaging culture that men are still encouraged to date as many women as possible and keep a tally (or playbook) of all their conquests. In the film we see Chris (Skreet Ulrich) invite Sarah on a date, which they go on, and he then invites her back to his place, which she refuses. Nevertheless, the next day he tells everyone they had sex, despite it not being true.
The scene very much reminded me of The CW’s Riverdale (2017), in which Veronica (Camila Mendes) learns that her date, Chuck Clayton (Jordan Calloway), has been slut shaming her to the rest of the school. She confronts him, but he refuses to stop, so Veronica teams up with the other women in the school to find evidence of the shaming. This episode also features a character called Ethel, who is another victim of the slut shaming by the football team and who is played by the awesome Shannon Purser of Stranger Things fame. Yes, that’s right, Barb! There’s also a little fourth wall shout out in there (seriously just go watch Riverdale).
What I think is interesting about The Craft in particular is that they make it clear that Chris’s behavior is largely due to wanting to be accepted by the other guys, as they goad him on and give him weird looks when he is under enchantment by Sarah to does whatever she says.
They also show that, despite his horrible behavior, Sarah still wants his attention (until it gets too much under the enchantment), showing the sad truth about how these cultures operate.
If Mean Girls taught us anything (though of course timeline wise it came after The Craft), it is that as women we shouldn’t pit ourselves against each other.
Or, as Ms. Norbury puts it: “You all have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores.”
It’s true that you’ll often find harsh criticism about women from other women, though I am happy to say that I am starting to see a culture developing more and more where women support and prop each other up instead of tearing each other down.
It was nice, then, to see actual female friendship and loyalty between the girls. That is. however, until they ultimately turn on Sarah after she disagrees with them. This was the main part of the film that I wish could have been changed because it was so refreshing and lovely to see women onscreen empowering each other and supporting each other.
However, it’s not to be because, as Sarah deftly puts it in the film, what they had was ultimately not friendship: “I disagree with them once and they turn their backs on me. It’s not friendship”.
I only hope that The Craft remake keeps these themes and makes something as unique and different as the original. This is a film that most of the crew are bewildered got made, but it did and there is a reason it is a cult classic: The characters felt real and were not impossible to live up to.
Hopefully, since it has been revealed that The Craft remake is less of a remake and more of a continuation, there is hope. As the director, Douglas Wick, told UpRoxx, it feels more like it’s set “twenty years later.” He also said that there will be “callbacks to the original movie, so you will see there is a connection between what happened in the days of The Craft, and how these young women come across this magic many years later.”
It will be interesting to see if any of the original cast are in the film since Fairuza Balk responded on Twitter about the event, saying, “Personally I don’t care for the idea of remakes.”
You guys are so sweet! It doesn't surprise me much. Sony made a lot of money off the craft & obviously see it as a way to make more
— Fairuza Balk (@fairuza) May 14, 2015
Personally I don't care for the idea of remakes. There are great scripts & ideas out there that have yet to be made!
— Fairuza Balk (@fairuza) May 14, 2015
I think it is fair to say that we can probably count Fairuza out, though it is hard to imagine anything associated with The Craft without her. All I can say, then, for the remake is that they have some big, black boots to fill…
This article was first published on April Is the Cruellest Month and republished here with permission.