The Craft: Legacy Review: A Pretentious Sequel That Fails To Cast Its Spell

Follow-ups to iconic films can be tricky things. When taking on a beloved film to continue the story, tell a new story, or even just create something fresh within a similar world and setting, the shadow of the original experience looms large. That's especially true for cult-classic films, such as The Craft. The 1996 film has long been a cherished coming-of-age film combining elements of female sexuality and empowerment with witchcraft, leaving pretty big shoes for The Craft: Legacy to fill. Unfortunately, while The Craft: Legacy does its best to walk beside the original without being exactly a sequel or a reboot, it falls very short to ultimately end up being a story that needs to be bound from harming itself.

The Craft: Legacy follows a premise that is fairly similar to the original film. Lily (Cailee Spaeny) and her mother Helen (Michelle Monaghan) relocate because of a new relationship on Helen's part with single dad and self-help/men's rights guru Adam (David Duchovny). While Lily isn't painted as being troubled or having especially unusual abilities, it's made pretty clear from the jump that she's "different" or "quirky," something that turns into something worse for the girl when, on her first day in a new school she gets her period in a humiliating fashion. This gets her taunted by her classmates, but also introduces her to Frankie (Gideon Adlon), Tabby (Lovie Simone), and Lourdes (Zoey Luna), a trio of witches seeking their fourth. Lily soon falls in with them and is revealed to be a powerful witch in her own right.

The new coven set about exploring their powers and use them to deal with the boy who tormented Lily, all the while Lily, in particular, starts finding her own confidence and, to an extent, her sexuality, though as one might expect, things begin to go a bit awry when an unexpected death causes conflict within the coven and begins to reveal a much more sinister threat facing Lily and those she cares about.

On its face, it seems like a pretty solid story, one that is just close enough to the concepts of The Craft to be satisfying for long-time fans while being fresh and different enough to satisfy a new, contemporary audience. However, the Devil is always in the details and that's where things start to come apart. Much has been made about The Craft: Legacy's transgender representation with Luna's Lourdes, but rather than utilize Lourdes to explore the idea of the divine feminine and Lourdes' magic as being an affirmation of her female identity, the film largely uses her trans identity as a weird sort of tokenism -- the character mentions her trans identity a few times in what amounts to little more than the script equivalent of checking off a diversity box. The same can be said for Simone's Tabby, whose blackness is reduced to a love of Beyonce. It's borderline offensive, which is unfortunate given the fantastic performances from both Luna and Simone.

Oddly jarring in contrast to this is how "woke" Zoe Lister-Jones attempts to make The Craft: Legacy. The script is packed full of hyper-aware buzzwords dealing with things such as consent, gender identity, and toxic masculinity, but when offered an opportunity to actually do something beyond offer lip service to these ideas, the film just takes the easy way out. An exploration of male bisexuality ends up being completely glossed over and used as the "weakness" needed for the film's villain to make his big play.

And speaking of that big villain, the twist in The Craft: Legacy is not only painfully transparent from the jump, but is also ultimately pretty cringe-worthy, especially in a film that has taken such pains to superficially be feminist in its leaning. Another transparent twist is the very clunky way The Craft: Legacy connects back to The Craft -- a story choice that prompts a whole new set of questions about the years between the first film's release and the story being told here.

That isn't to say that the film doesn't have some wins. Luna, Simone, and Spaeny all turn in strong performances -- Adlon does as well, though it's harder to tell, given how poorly written her character is. The film also manages to do away with the concept that women can't support each other. Seeing this coven of young witches come together feels far more accurate and less overwrought for dramatic purpose. Nicholas Galitzine, who plays Timmy, also delivers, giving the primary male character of the film a complexity that the story fails to offer. Even with those positives, though, The Craft: Legacy feels less like a thoughtful coming-of-age story that expands on the original and more like a film desperately trying to be woke simply by using the language sans any understanding of its meaning.

The Craft: Legacy is a film that is muddled in its purpose. It never really seems to settle on what kind of film it wants to be, feeling at times like a reboot, a sequel, or something else entirely. It also struggles to be fresh in any sense, opting to offer only lip service to the diversity and progressive subjects it sets out to examine, with the final product coming across as flat and phony, a story that does no favors to itself nor honors the original in any meaningful way.

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Rating: 2 out of 5

The Craft: Legacy will debut on-demand on Wednesday, October 28th.