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Years Later, The Craft Continues To Cast A Spell On Me

Decades after being released to mixed reviews and a good showing at the box office, The Craft continues to be revered and relevant, a preciously guarded artefact for an entire generation of teens who have now grown up into adulthood. An argument could – and probably has on a billion other blogs – be made that The Craft is one of the more influential movies of the ’90s. It took witchcraft and streamlined it into something that was marketable for teens.

How so?

Charmed (with Love Spit Love’s cover of How Soon Is Now being used as the title theme) was clearly indebted to The Craft. Except the one black girl in the cast was removed and The Power of Four ended up as The Power of Three. A pity, because The Craft was one of the few mainstream American teen movies to accurately reflect the harsh reality of racism and bigotry at high school. It’s something that’s rare in the genre, just like movies about teen witchcraft up until that point. No-one is going to write a blog about Teen Witch. Come on! Okay, so what else did The Craft inspire? Witchcraft was window-dressing for Buffy The Vampire Slayer, with one of the main cast becoming a powerful witch. And just like Nancy from The Craft, Willow became vengeful when fuelled by magic, a witch with a vendetta against a sexist jerk. Buffy was one of *the* major cultural cornerstones of the 90s and it arrived soon after The Craft. Perhaps The Craft paved the way for a supernatural TV show aimed at teens? Or at least helped it in some small way.

Rape culture is touched upon in The Craft, with Chris Hooker spreading lies around school about Sarah, telling everyone she slept with him. And all because she didn’t want to sleep with him! It’s a shocking strand, but similar to a plotline in Heathers, though Veronica Sawyer didn’t use witchcraft to get revenge on Kurt and Ram because she had a sociopathic boyfriend that looked like Christian Slater to help her out.

For me, one of the most significant aspects of The Craft was the movie soundtrack. When John Hughes chose music for his movies, he selected his favourite songs from the hippest new wave/alt-rock artists. And Sigue Sigue Sputnik. Teens in America, hooked on MTV and Diet Pepsi, watched his movies and saw Molly Ringwald listening to The Jesus And Mary Chain/The Smiths/Suzanne Vega and other cool bands. Then they went out and bought records from those bands so they could listen to them and be cool like Molly. John Hughes, in effect, made life imitate his art. The Craft did something similar for me. It introduced me to a lot of alternative American rock bands I would never have discovered otherwise. There was Love Spit Love (as I mentioned above) and their Smiths cover. I already knew about The Smiths, because my dad is a manic depressive ex-punk nicknamed Davy Death. He loved The Smiths, obviously. There was Heather Nova and her brilliant take on Peter Gabriel’s I Have The Touch. I prefer her version. Heather has a talent for sounding yearning yet optimistic. It’s all in her vocals. Matthew Sweet could be found on the soundtrack too. Dark Secret is one of my other favourites from the CD. Juliana Hatfield’s cover of Witches’ Song made me go and seek out her other albums, kicking off a life long obsession. The scene it soundtracked is one of my favourite moments in any movie. The four heroines – and they’re all equal in status – are on a bus, travelling to somewhere secluded when they reach their stop. The bus driver suggests they should ‘watch out for those weirdos’, to which Nancy utters the iconic line, “We are the weirdos mister.”

Honestly, aren’t they the coolest people ever in this sequence?

Anyway, the soundtrack also has the only Jewel song I like, Tripping Daisy, a great Beatles cover from Our Lady Peace, and The Horror by Spacehog. And what ’90s teen movie soundtrack would be complete without a feature from the brilliant but underrated Letters To Cleo?

The Craft is a regular staple in my movie diet. It’s a movie full of richness, characterisation, a proper journey for the characters and the viewer. It’s a feminist revenge fantasy, a parable on the viciously of female friendships gone wrong, but most of all The Craft is endlessly rewatchable because I’m constantly discovering new things in it. Little details like Nancy, memorably played by Fairuza Balk, being more sympathetic and complicated than the teenage version of me ever realised. Then there’s Neve Campbell, successfully and realistically pulling off the reverse She’s All That.

What?

Well, She’s All That shows Laney Boggs (even her name denotes frumpiness), a geek who is made over into a beautiful girl acceptable enough to be taken to the prom by a right rotter who happens to look like Freddie Prinze Jr. Except Laney was always beautiful, just wearing a pair of spectacles. Neve Campbell Bonnie is scarred and meek, a girl whose transformation really does seem magical, but it’s all in the performance and a few shots of scarred skin. I often wonder why things went quiet for Neve, but then I see that she worked with some of the worst people in the movie business, including a few Harvey Weinstein movies.

Another little detail is Robin Tunney’s amazing wig, so convincing it might be the best movie wig ever. Or it was until I noticed it.

The Craft is something special, more than just a movie about four witches. It’s a sharp turn in another direction for me, something significant that continues to remain very dear. The Craft isn’t just for Halloween. It’s for life. And if rumours of a impending remake are true, we need to call the corners and ask Manon for help in stifling what will surely be a travesty. Let’s begin the chant now:

Hail to the guardians of the watchtowers of the east, the powers of air and invention. Hail to the guardians of the watchtowers of the south, powers of fire and feeling…

Actually, it might be easier to start a petition.

 

 

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