The Craft (1996)

the-craftThe nineties experienced an odd resurgence in the interest of witchcraft for a while. So much so that even I dabbled in it and Paganism for a while. In my ever expanding love for the occult I took to intensive research of the art of witchcraft, and I think it was contagious for a while. There was the hit TV show “Charmed,” and “Sabrina the Teenage Witch,” and of course there were films like “Hocus Pocus,” “Practical Magic,” the revived film version of “The Crucible,” and the rather slick horror drama “The Craft” to help induce the interest in the apparent appeal of the religion. While somewhat fading in to obscurity, it’s still an utterly mesmerizing teen oriented horror thriller and one painfully copied in “The Covenant.”

After attempting suicide, Sarah arrives in Los Angeles to attend a prominent Catholic school, and finds that the social circle isn’t entirely welcoming of new students. While attempting to adjust with her family who view her as a threat to herself, she meets a trio of young girls whom are equally disturbed outcasts, and struggling to find their place in the school. Sarah befriends the trio of outcasts, and while slowly acknowledging signs of doom around her, realizes that the young girls have a hobby: witchcraft. And they’re also a coven. Attempting to invoke an ancient spirit that will grant them god-like powers, the girls form a complete circle of witches. In spite of a spiritual guide’s warning that Sarah is the only true witch in the group, the young girls are given immense powers of regeneration and control over their environment, which soon progresses from an adventure in to a dark and disturbing murderous rampage.

Robin Tunney is in her usual humble protagonist role as she realizes her own true powers while watching her friends slowly digress in to psychotic beings who take pleasure in doling out misery to others. While it does take a bit long to build up to the horrific antics that ensue once the power is on, director Andrew Fleming’s “The Craft” is still a dazzling horror spectacle with some awfully striking imagery that dabbles between fantasy and horror more often than not. Once the coven realizes they’ve been granted their powers, there’s a rather iconic scene of Fairuza Balk’s character Nancy walking along the water, while a slew of beached whales perch along the beach. “The Craft” begins as something of a pandering teen thriller in the opening doling out young stars like Skeet Ulrich and Neve Campbell (soon to co-star in an iconic horror film shortly after this film) but really manages to portray the premise with an immense maturity and dignity that’s entertaining.

The actions of the coven have consequences, and this in the long run rots them to their core transforming them in to monsters ultimately. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. The best dynamic of the story is between character Sarah and Nancy, both of whom measure their powers as Sarah tries to stop Nancy and her inhuman deeds, while Nancy seems to wield her powers more as a weapon than a tool. Tunney and Balk have fantastic chemistry on-screen and this escalates in to a rather raucous and incredible showdown of powers in the climax where the two duel in the darkness with their abilities, and it never fails to please. “The Craft” has a remarkable sense of style and it offers something for everyone with sharp performances, great special effects, and a unique horror story that ends on a truly twisted note. It’s a film that deserves much more attention than it gets in the span of the decade, as “The Craft” is a pure nineties gem that offers great imagery, strong special effects, and a story that will appeal to fantasy and horror buffs alike.