The Craft

 

 

On May 3rd, 1996 a film called The Craft was released. I was 14 at the time and when I saw the film advertised in one of my teen magazines I knew instantly that I would absolutely love it. I’ve always had this sixth sense about movies, but this cult film has remained one of my favourites long past my teens. This week The Craft celebrated its 2oth anniversary.

 

It began a trend of aligning young women with witchcraft with TV shows such as Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Charmed, and in films such as Practical Magic. The Craft also arguably reignited the teen horror genre which exploded the next year with Scream.

 

the craft

 

I remember going to HMV to buy the soundtrack and buying black nail polish and lipstick from Boots the Chemist. I found a metaphysical shop in the nearest town and spent many an afternoon there breathing in the scent of patchouli incense and reading the books there. Teen magazines featured interviews with teen witches and I desperately wished I could be a part of a coven and bewitch cute guys. One magazine even had a free gift of a tarot deck and I used to practice different spreads trying to see what my future held.

 

The Craft

 

 

I related to The Craft as a teen uncomfortable in her own body. I think that’s where it’s popularity lies, in that it has universal appeal. Everyone can relate to feeling like an outsider at some point in their lives. I wasn’t the most popular girl in my class, nor was I a loner, I just kind of was, that invisible purgatory where sometimes more popular girls said catty remarks and I was often ignored by boys (although that was ok, I’d set my sights on Hollywood stars instead).

 

craft-seance

 

 

The film follows troubled teen Sarah Bailey as she starts at a new school and is swiftly humiliated by her crush, Chris. She attracts the attention of three outcasts; (whom Chris dubs “the bitches of Eastwick”) Bonnie, Rochelle and Nancy, and they quickly recruit her as the fourth member of their circle on account of her natural magical abilities. With Sarah’s powers the circle quickly find their spells coming true; Chris becomes infatuated with Sarah, Bonnie’s burn scars disappear, Nancy’s abusive step-father dies leaving her mother and her enough money to move from their trailer to an apartment, and Rochelle stops being bullied by “racist piece of bleach-blonde shit” Laura Lizzie. With this wish-fulfilment comes greed and abuse of power, and Sarah is the only member of the group who sees that the power is backfiring on them in increasingly more dangerous ways.

 

 

The Craft

 

 

I was already familiar with the actresses in the film. I knew scene-stealer Fairuza Balk (Nancy) from The Worst Witch and Return to Oz, Neve Campbell (Bonnie) was in the tv drama Party of Five, Rachel True (Rochelle) had been in the saucy Embrace of the Vampire and Robin Tunney had played another suicidal young woman in another great film, Empire Records. I loved their Catholic schoolgirl/goth style and most of all I was enchanted by the magic.

 

The film is not without its flaws; the scene in the magic shop, when Sarah seeks help from Lirio promises something which doesn’t deliver, and I always wondered why Rochelle’s home life was overlooked. Nancy may be the villain of the story but she is absolutely the most fun to watch. The Craft is being remade this year. Apparently it is not a sequel but a reimagining. I don’t know who they will cast that could have even half of the intensity of Fairuza Balk, and of course, any new film will lack the nostalgic 90s charm of the original. The 90s did teen angst so well with tv series such as My So-Called Life, Buffy and Dawson’s Creek. Maybe I’m showing my age here, but the teens in the latest tv shows all seem so glossy and cookie-cutter perfect.

 

 

The Craft

 

Most importantly, The Craft showed me that it was ok to deviate from the norm, to seek your own answers in life, and of course, to be a weirdo. It started my interest with all things witchy and I’m certainly not the only girl influenced by the characters’ interest in spells and incantations. Wiccan writer Silver Ravenwolf published her book Teen Witch and subsequent Teen Witch Kit no doubt in response to all the interest in witchcraft from teens after the release of the film.

 

The Craft was not the first, nor the last film to use the female teenage experience in all its messiness and emotions as a horror allegory. Horror allows for agency and transcendence, whether it is through magic, being the ‘final girl’ or through literal transformation (watch Ginger Snaps – the town is called Bailey Downs – a nod to The Craft perhaps?). And teenage girls will always straddle that mysterious, scary place between childhood and womanhood, and will no doubt always be drawn to witchcraft as an exploration of themselves (and here I am in no way saying that an attraction to magic is merely a phase – I am living proof of that!). We only need to look at the teen witches in recent television, such as American Horror Story: Coven and The Vampire Diaries, Little Mix’s music video Black Magic, and all the witchy articles in the online magazine Rookie to show just how popular witches are. But also, a search on Instagram for witches shows that women of all ages are embracing the craft, consulting the tarot and exploring their spiritual sides.

 

 

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