1996’s “The Craft” is a film that is entirely of its time, while it may not go down in history as one of the cinematic greats, or even the horror genre greats, it is not unlike a time capsule, and in that sense it still retains immense entertainment value for those who lived through the decade.
“The Craft” finds L.A. newcomer Sarah falling in with a trio of misfit girls who also happen to practice witchcraft and happen to see her as their “fourth”, an invaluable coven member who will allow them to do much more impressive and varied magic. Sarah (Robin Tunney) has never studied magic, but is a natural talent who we learn has carried off some spells well before meeting her new pals, Nancy (Fairuza Balk), Bonnie (Neve Campbell) and Rochelle (Rachel True). Once united, the girls find that they are capable of conjuring with some clout.
The girls quickly graduate from playing beloved slumber party game “light as a feather, stiff as a board” and affecting simple glamour spells (essentially creating a mirage or altering an appearance) to seriously potent love spells and some far more sinister (and super illegal) tricks.
The plot is outlandish, and seemingly born of the popularity of the goth subculture at the time, but it is undeniably entertaining, and dare we say even a bit nostalgic to behold, as all hell starts to break loose.
Fairuza Balk inarguably steals the show as Nancy, the most fervent among the group, and also the one most unable to let go of the power they discover, even once it begins to frighten the others. Balk instills a fanaticism and desperation into Nancy that is positively transfixing. Robin Tunney meanwhile is the perfect counterpart as Sarah, though the more powerful of the two she is the relatable moral center of the tale. Neve Campbell clearly has some fun as Bonnie, though her turn in “Scream” that same year is far more memorable.
“The Craft” may not conjure up terror, but it certainly brews up some tricky fun. Admit it, you would change your hair color at will just to show off if you could, as would we all.