The Craft is a 1996 American supernatural horror film directed by Andrew Fleming and distributed by Columbia Pictures. It was written by Andrew Fleming and Peter Filardi and stars Robin Tunney, Fairuza Balk, Neve Campbell, and Rachel True. Its story follows a group of four outcast teenage girls at a fictional Los Angeles parochial high school who pursue witchcraft for their own gain but soon encounter negative repercussions.
The film was released on May 3, 1996. It was a surprise hit, earning $6.7 million in its opening weekend and $55.6 million worldwide, against a budget of $15 million. It received mixed reviews from critics. In the years since its release, the film has gained a cult following.
In March 2019, it was announced that there would be a reboot of the film, which will be produced by Jason Blum and his production company Blumhouse Productions.
Plot[edit | edit source]
Sarah Bailey, a troubled teenager with unusual abilities, has just moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles with her father and stepmother. At her new school, she forms a friendship with three outcast girls who are rumored to be witches; Bonnie Harper (who bears burn scars from an auto accident), Nancy Downs (whose family lives in a trailer and whose stepfather is abusive) and Rochelle Zimmerman (a black girl who is subjected to racist bullying by a group of white girls on her swimming team). At the same time, Sarah becomes attracted to football team member Chris Hooker. Bonnie, Nancy and Rochelle worship a deity named "Manon".
When Bonnie observes Sarah levitating a pencil in class, she and the group become convinced that Sarah is the right girl to complete their coven as "the fourth", making them all-powerful. When Sarah is harassed by a vagrant with a snake (whom she had encountered before at her new house), he is immediately hit by a car, and the girls believe that together they willed it to happen. It is also revealed that Sarah has attempted suicide in the past.
After a date with Chris, Sarah is upset to find that he has spread a false rumor that they had sex and she was terrible in bed. When Sarah confronts him, he treats her disrespectfully in front of his friends. In response, Sarah casts a love spell on him. Rochelle casts a revenge spell on racist bully Laura Lizzie, Bonnie casts a spell for beauty, and Nancy one for power. It soon becomes clear that the spells were successful: Chris becomes infatuated with Sarah, scars that Bonnie had on her back miraculously heal, and Laura, who had harassed Rochelle over her curly hair, begins to lose her own hair. At home, Nancy inadvertently causes her stepfather to have a heart attack and die. This enables Nancy and her mother to cash in a life insurance policy he had and move out of their trailer and into a luxurious high-rise apartment.
Nancy becomes greedy for power and encourages the others to join her in a rite called "Invocation of the Spirit". On completion of the spell, she is struck by lightning. Afterward, she lacks empathy and begins taking risks with her life and those of others.
The spells that the girls cast soon lead to negative consequences: Bonnie becomes aggressively narcissistic, Rochelle finds Laura traumatized by her baldness and sobbing hysterically, and Chris attempts to rape Sarah when she rejects his continued advances. In supposed retaliation, Nancy uses a glamour spell to make herself look like Sarah and tries to fool Chris into having sex with her at a party. She is interrupted by the real Sarah, who tells Nancy to leave with her, but it becomes obvious that Nancy has unrequited feelings for Chris. The shocked Chris says to Nancy that she must be jealous, angering Nancy, who uses her power to kill Chris by hurling him out of a window.
Sarah performs a binding spell to prevent Nancy from doing more harm, but it doesn't work, and the coven turns on Sarah. They invade her dreams, threaten her and use their powers of illusion to make Sarah believe that her father and stepmother have been killed in a plane crash, then torment her with visions of swarms of snakes, insects and rats. They try to induce her to commit suicide, and Nancy cuts Sarah's wrists herself. Although she is initially terrified, Sarah successfully "invokes the spirit" and is able to heal herself and fight back. She scares off Bonnie and Rochelle by showing them glamours of Bonnie with her face scarred and Rochelle losing her hair like Laura, and then defeats Nancy, binding her against causing harm forever.
Bonnie and Rochelle, finding their powers gone, visit Sarah to attempt reconciliation with her, only to find that Sarah wants nothing more to do with them and that "Manon" has taken away their powers after they abused them. Bonnie and Rochelle scornfully mutter that Sarah must have lost her powers too; to scare them off, Sarah invokes lightning which strikes a tree branch that nearly falls on them. Sarah warns them to be careful not to end up like Nancy. Nancy is shown committed to a psychiatric hospital, stripped of her powers and strapped to her bed to prevent her from injuring herself as she desperately insists she can fly.
Cast[edit | edit source]
- Robin Tunney as Sarah Bailey
- Fairuza Balk as Nancy Downs
- Neve Campbell as Bonnie Harper
- Rachel True as Rochelle Zimmerman
- Skeet Ulrich as Chris Hooker
- Cliff DeYoung as Mr. Bailey
- Christine Taylor as Laura Lizzie
- Breckin Meyer as Mitt
- Nathaniel Marston as Trey
- Helen Shaver as Grace Downs
- Assumpta Serna as Lirio
- William Newman as Street Preacher
- Brenda Strong as Doctor
Production[edit | edit source]
The concept for The Craft came from a collaboration between producer Douglas Wick, who wanted to create a film about the high school experience blended with witchcraft, and screenwriter Peter Filardi, who extensively researched the topic and wrote the initial draft. Andrew Fleming was hired to direct and produce the final version of the screenplay.
85 other actresses screen-tested for the four main roles, including Angelina Jolie and Alicia Silverstone. Rachel True and Fairuza Balk were the first to be cast in their respective roles. The character of Rochelle was re-written when True was cast to be black, incorporating racism subplot as the character's major conflict. Robin Tunney was initially cast in the role of Bonnie, but the producers decided she would be better in the starring role of Sarah, which she was persuaded to accept despite preferring the former. Neve Campbell, the most well-known of the four actresses for her role on Party of Five, was then cast as Bonnie. Tunney had shaved her head for her role in Empire Records and had to wear a wig throughout filming.
Production enlisted a real-life Wiccan named Pat Devin to act as on-set advisor for the film. She wrote the incantations used and ensured that the treatment of the Wiccan subject-matter was as accurate and respectful as possible.
Shooting took place throughout Los Angeles, including the Los Angeles International Airport, Sunset Boulevard, and Broadway. Verdugo Hills High School was the setting for the fictional Catholic school, St. Benedict's Academy; production designer Marek Dobrowolski added different religious statues throughout the building and the grounds. Sarah's home in the film was a 2-story Spanish mansion and the interiors were built on a soundstage at Culver City Studios. The occult bookstore was shot at the El Adobe Marketplace in Hollywood Boulevard. The room was repainted and enhanced and occult icons such as candles, stigmas, religious statues, masks and tribal dolls were added for effect. Jensen's Recreation Center in Echo Park was chosen to avoid overuse of frequently seen Los Angeles locations. During filming, an unrelated accident occurred in which a child was injured; the production's medic saw this and called paramedics. The makeshift altar was set in Wood Ranch, a location that Dobrowolski called the hardest to find. Dobrowolski wanted to avoid manicured parks like Griffith Park. The beach summoning took place at Leo Carrillo State Park, which was chosen because its crest made it seem less visually boring.
The makeup effects were designed and created by Tony Gardner and his special effects company Alterian, Inc., which also created the beached sharks for the film.
Soundtrack[edit | edit source]
The Craft: Music from the Motion Picture was released in 1996 on CD and cassette, one month before the film's official theatrical release in the United States. The soundtrack contains a collection of songs, to suit the theme of the movie, from various artists including Heather Nova, Letters to Cleo, and Spacehog. Nova's version of "I Have the Touch", originally performed by Peter Gabriel, which featured during the end credits of the film, was exclusively included on the soundtrack, and is not available as a single, or on any of Nova's albums, nor does she perform the song in concert. The tracks in film, titled "Sick Child", "Fallin'" and "Scorn" performed by Siouxsie and the Banshees, Connie Francis and Portishead respectively, were omitted from the soundtrack due to copyright issues from their record labels. However, they were only included in the film as part of an arrangement with PolyGram Film & Television Licensing. An uncredited bonus track, "Bells, Books and Candles", composed by Graeme Revell for the film's score, was included on the soundtrack. A follow-up soundtrack, The Original Motion Picture Score, was released on June 18, 1996 from Varèse Sarabande, and contained the film's score which was entirely composed and produced by Graeme Revell.
Release[edit | edit source]
Reception[edit | edit source]
The Craft received mixed reviews upon its release and currently holds a 55% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 56 reviews, with a weighted average of 5.48/10. The site's consensus reads: "The Craft's campy magic often overrides the feminist message at the film's core, but its appealing cast and postmodern perspective still cast a sporadic spell". Emanuel Levy of Variety described it as "a neatly crafted film that begins most promisingly as a black comedy a la Heathers, but gradually succumbs to its tricky machinery of special effects". Roger Ebert also felt the film was mired in excessive special effects, but praised the performances of the four leads, as did Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle. Stephen Holden of The New York Times echoed other reviews, praising the first half of the film as a "celebration of adolescent nonconformity and female independence", but criticized the last half as a "heavy-handed sermon about karma" with "garish" special effects. Rita Kempley of The Washington Post called it "a brew of Hawthorne, Heathers and Hollywood hocus-pocus" that was nonetheless a "bubbling mess of a movie" that "leaves us more bothered than bewitched".
The film was nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Horror Film and Fairuza Balk for Best Supporting Actress. Balk and Tunney also won the MTV Movie Award for Best Fight.
Box office[edit | edit source]
The film opened at number one at the North American box office, making US$6,710,995. The movie was a sleeper hit, which Columbia attributed to teenagers and young women, who responded to its themes. According to Box Office Mojo, The Craft is the 11th highest-grossing film since 1980 dealing with the genre of witches.
Legacy[edit | edit source]
The film is often labeled a "cult classic" and has acquired a loyal fan base and social media presence. The Huffington Post, writing in 2016, praised The Craft for departing from clichés of the teen movie genre and incorporating darker themes, saying it became "part of the 90's teen canon and a cult classic of its own merit." Complex magazine praised the relevance of the film 20 years later, saying it "feels much more progressive than many of the movies that come out today" and calling the viewing of the film "a rite of passage" for young women.
In 2013, three of the main actresses, with the exception of Fairuza Balk, reunited for a special Halloween screening of the film at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
The Craft served as an inspiration for the 2013 song "Dark Horse" by Katy Perry.
Reboot[edit | edit source]
A straight-to-DVD sequel was in the works, but was terminated. In May 2016, Sony Pictures announced that a sequel of The Craft currently in development and would be written and directed by Leigh Janiak. The announcement of the sequel spawned negative reactions from fans of the original.
In March 2019, it was announced that the new film is officially a reboot to be distributed by Columbia Pictures and produced by Jason Blum and his Blumhouse Productions company. Zoe Lister-Jones has signed on to write and direct with filming scheduled to begin in July 2019. Daniel Casey has also been tapped as a screenwriter for the remake. In June 2019, Cailee Spaeny was cast as one of the leads. In September 2019, Gideon Adlon, Lovie Simone and Zoey Luna were cast for the remaining three lead roles. In October 2019, David Duchovny joined the cast in an undisclosed role. Later, Michelle Monaghan joined the film in an undisclosed role. Filming began on October 22, 2019.