Rewatching The Craft: Why it’s still important

Image: The Craft/ Columbia Pictures 

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. Of course, I fell in love with The Craft, one because I have a weakness for 90s fashion (along with 80s- someone please send help), but because of the way it tried to 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 (I am not enjoying all these 20 year anniversary’s at the moment- they make me feel old, even though I would have only been about 1 years old for most of them!), but I think it’s as good a time as ever to take a look back at all the topics that The Craft covered, and in my opinion tried to show a 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, also is 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 the interview with The Huffington Post, 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, Fairuza out of all the cast members 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 with The Huffington Post 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 be cool to different, and standout, or as Nancy infamously says, “We are the weirdos, mister”.

giphy
Source: giphy.com

The Craft then is one of the cult teen films, and this is largely because of the way the film covered several issues that affect teenage life today, and were unapologetic about them.

Racism 

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 behaviour (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, however, 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 its 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 Craft Bonnie and RochelleImage: The Craft/ Columbia Pictures 

Self harm

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 are scars are from her attempting suicide.

Teen suicide in the 80s had become a epidemic in the media, yet the subject was still not really talked about. Instead, teenagers were lectured on to just say no to suicide (famously satirised by the film The Heathers), but never actually listened to. In the 90s suicide almost became glamourised, along with other dangerous trends such as the ‘heroin chic’ trend for models.

It is refreshing however to see in The Craft that it is not. What we see instead is that Sarah has gone through real pain, but yet she is determined to keep fighting. Cutting becomes something nightmarish, and 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.

The Craft Sarah

Image: The Craft/ Columbia Pictures 

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.

NancyImage: The Craft/ Columbia Pictures 

Toxic masculinity

The film also talks about High School and its damaging culture that means men are still encouraged to date as many women as possible and keep a tally (or play book) of all their conquests. In the film we see Chris (Skreet Ulrich) invite Nancy 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 Netflix (and CW)’s Riverdale 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 victim of the slut shaming by the football team, 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 behaviour 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 so does whatever she says.

They also show that despite his horrible behaviour Sarah still wants his attention (until it gets too much under the enchantment); showing the sad truth about how these cultures operate.

The Craft Skeet UlrichImage: The Craft/ Columbia Pictures 

Female friendship

If Mean Girls taught us anything (though of course time line 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 ok 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, as it was so refreshing and lovely to see women on screen 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 however was ultimately not friendship:

“I disagree with them once and they turn their backs on me. It’s not friendship”.

Female friendship The CraftImage: The Craft/ Columbia Pictures 

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 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’s feels more like it’s set, “twenty years later”. He also said, 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 then to see if any of the original cast are in the film. Since Fairuza Balk responded on Twitter about the event saying that: “Personally I don’t care for the idea of remakes”.

Source: @fairuza

Source: @fairuza

I think it is fair to see 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…

black boots the craft    Source: via giphy.com

For anyone interested in reading more about The Craft here is my round up of all the articles mentioning The Craft that I found interesting/ inspiring:

For all of you obsessed with the fashion of the film like me: http://www.dazeddigital.com/fashion/article/30973/1/creating-the-cult-fashion-that-defined-the-craft

Background information about the making of The Craft (including an interview with Andrew Fleming and Robin Tunney): https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/mar/01/how-we-made-the-craft-horror-movie-interview

Fun facts and trivia about the film:                       https://www.buzzfeed.com/leonoraepstein/10-weird-things-you-probably-dont-know-about-the-craft?utm_term=.lebA1BjEL#.pr7MQlaRP

Interesting article talking about the significance of each of the filming locations of The Craft (including what has become of the locations now): http://www.laweekly.com/arts/revisiting-the-la-filming-locations-of-the-craft-20-years-later-6870417