Thursday, 5 November 2020

The Craft: Legacy (2020) - Movie Review

A Blumhouse-produced reboot of an old-school piece of feminist-leaning horror… I feel like we’ve been down this dark road before. Okay, in fairness, I don’t want to imply that either that film or this one is irredeemably bad. It’s just that the pattern goes beyond the studio backing it, and right into finding a similar mixture of intriguing and bizarre ideas in trying to modernise the original story. And quite frankly, it hexes itself more times than not.

It opens with a similar Seizurevision editing style for the title credits, and the finale is the modern-day equivalent of the special effects overload of the original, but this isn’t an outright remake. It’s more like a witch house remix of the goth rock original, and it’s a remix that works well when it takes time to focus. Cailee Spaeny in the lead works very well with the wiccan awakening character arc, and her chemistry with Lovie Simone, Zoey Luna, and Blockers MVP Gideon Adlon is made all the sweeter in how this aims for a lot more solidarity than the original, which honestly ironed out one of my bigger issues with it.

However, such synergy comes at the expense of the characters as, outside of Spaeny’s Lily, we don’t really get a good look at the others in the coven. Admittedly, the original wasn’t great in that respect either, but this doesn’t even go as far as the racism/body issues/parental abuse outsider tropes that made those characters at least memorable; these are just witches because… because! There’s a depressing joke in how, by attempting to make them all get along better with each other, they end up losing whatever individuality they have. Where’s Queen Poppy when you need her?

As uneven as the magic can be, from the sparkly bath effects to a Twilight reference of all things (because keeping Kristen Stewart tied to that totally matches the vibe of this whole thing), it reaches both its height and somewhat of its depths when the men get involved. For a start, the requisite high school bully Timmy (Nicholas Galitzine) has such a sporadic character arc, I went from sighing to screw-face to shedding a tear from relating so much to the guy over the course of his scenes. I can safely say that no other film has given me that many conflicting emotions towards a single character this year, and that’s saying something when the turning point for that arc is a woke hex activated by implied smoking of his own jizz. If that was strange to read, imagine how strange it felt to type out.

That on its own is a bit odd (and a bit disappointing, since this manages to hand-wave consent issues even harder than the first film concerning magic… so much for being ‘woke’, I guess), but then we get into the antagonists of this film, who *minor spoilers* aren’t any of the main girls. Instead, it’s basically an MRA-style cult that, when the evil plan goes into full swing, comes across like writer/director Zoe Lister-Jones was trying to reverse-engineer a Vs. movie between The Craft and The Covenant.

As much as I dug the way it gets into feminine solidarity and power opposed by the patriarchy, I initially wrote that Vs. idea in my notes as a joke when I first saw Lily's step-brothers, but it became even funnier when, as the revamped magic system got revealed during the final act… yeah, this is about as close to an official team-up as we’re going to get, or ever want to get for that matter.

It’s really difficult to judge this, both on its own and as a sequel to the original. Hell, the way it makes that sequel connection not only draws a giant question mark over the 90 minutes leading up to it, but also manages to draw one over the first film at the same time.

As a follow-up to a rather classic piece of ‘90s wiccan cinema, the way it plays around with notions surrounding witchcraft range from bland to legitimately improving the sticking points of the original. And as a standalone film, the wonky characterisation, predicted-by-riffing plot progression, and lack of emotional impact behind the magic (save for the token dude in the witch squad) end up dampening the smarter points it has to make. The first film may not be perfect, but it sure is a lot more consistent than what we get here.

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