Rita Kempley - Style section,
'The Craft': Far From Crafty
"The Craft," an occult thriller for the "as if" crowd,
is an old-fashioned morality tale hiding under a witch's hat.
A brew of Hawthorne, "Heathers" and Hollywood hocus-pocus,
this bubbling mess of a movie concerns the empowerment of a
quartet of high school outcasts through witchcraft and their subsequent misuse
of those powers.
'The Craft': Poor Little Witch Girls
By Rita Kempley
"The Craft," an occult thriller for the "as if" crowd, is an old-fashioned morality tale hiding under a witch's hat. A brew of Hawthorne, "Heathers" and Hollywood hocus-pocus, this bubbling mess of a movie concerns the empowerment of a quartet of high school outcasts and their subsequent misuse of those powers. All this has something to do with an entity, Manon, the Wiccan goddess cult and, in at least one case, cramps.
Director Andrew Fleming ("Bad Dreams") and his co-writer, Peter Filardi ("Flatliners"), focus on the beguiling Sarah (compelling Robin Tunney), a new student at St. Benedict's Academy in Los Angeles. Met with indifference by most of her classmates, Sarah is approached by three brittle oddballs known as "the bitches of Eastwick."
Nancy (ferocious Fairuza Balk), the feisty self-appointed leader of the group, invites the newcomer to join their secret coven. Witches, like bridge mavens, need a fourth to complete their magic spells. Sarah, whose knack for witchcraft has already manifested itself, soon slips off to the woods with Nancy, Bonnie (Neve Campbell) and Rochelle (Rachel True) to drink blood, celebrate sisterhood and chant up a storm.
Initially, the ceremonies draw the four girls into a joyous friendship. They spend all their free time together, gabbing, giggling and snacking on junk food. More important, they share their fears and support one another through crises. Then their incantations begin to work, and like the pitiless suburban princesses of "Heathers," they become intoxicated with their own power.
Though a white witch warns them to use the craft with care, the wee Wiccans avenge themselves against their mean-spirited classmates: A smug blonde goes bald for mocking Rochelle's "nappy" hair, and a sexist jock becomes Sarah's lapdog for impugning her chastity. Then Nancy, upset because her spell isn't working yet, becomes increasingly aggressive toward her chums. "What's the matter with her?" asks Sarah. "I guess she doesn't want to be white trash anymore," suggests Rochelle.
Unfortunately, this catty black comedy is buried under an onslaught of unimaginative special effects in the final act, when the witches reap what they have sown. This leads to a power struggle between Sarah and Nancy, who arrives with a menagerie of bugs, snakes and bats. Oh, the horror, the horror. Can good possibly prevail? What about trying a can of Raid?
Replete with references to the Golden Rule, "The Craft" doesn't leave much doubt about what awaits these teeny-boppers on broomstick s. Despite all their toil and trouble, the tale leaves us more bothered than bewitched.