Confession: I was an adult before I could bring myself to sit through horror movies and still be able to get at least a few hours of sleep the following night. So there’s a gaping hole in my knowledge of that genre. (Which is to say, I’ve never seen anything with a character called Freddy or Jason.) But then I realized the obvious: that God created eyes so that they could be shut as well as open, and in an emergency, ears could also be plugged, though that seemed a waste of a movie.
So in honor of upcoming Halloween, I’ll review “The Craft,” a film about a group of teen girls who form a coven to get back at everyone in their life who makes them miserable, after a new girl (Robin Tunney) moves to L.A. and starts attending their private Catholic school. There is plenty of creepy magic, but the main focus in the beginning is on the non-supernatural terrors of life: which are respectively, a poor white trash (the movie’s terms, not mine) reputation (Fairuza Balk); a burned back which is treatment resistant (Neve Campbell); and a racist Queen Bee played by Christine Taylor (for Rachel True). Robin’s character has also suffered trauma, as evidenced by her scarred wrists, though she doesn’t want to talk about it. At first, the three are equally unpleasant to Robin as they are to their peers, though Robin has done zilch to antagonize them. But this way, she’s more receptive to the first student who is friendly: a jock (Skeet Ulrich) who explains that everyone considers the three girls freaks and then asks her out. When the date goes awry, Robin winds up bonding with Fairuza’s clique after Skeet compromises her reputation (which he’s also done to Fairuza).
To get away from school and just ordinary miserable life, the girls then go on a field trip of sorts to a destination that they consider magic-friendly, and there they explain to Robin that she is destined to be part of their coven (they need someone at all four corners: North, South, etc. to properly cast spells). Robin does have a knack for experiencing supernatural phenomena, which earns her the grudging approval of Fairuza, their leader. At first, the girls are successful beyond their expectations, but then things start to go sour, after they cast a spell on a deserted beach, and Fairuza returns unhinged, although she was never that stable to begin with. Soon she’s antagonized Robin, and this is when the movie begins to resemble another teen horror revenge flick called “Carrie.”
It’s too bad that the movie turns so lurid and over-the-top at the finale because “The Craft,” begins as a decent movie with insights into teen bullying, ostracism and the double standards of sexual behavior for adolescent girls vs. boys. But if you want a horror film that, like junk food, is satisfying in the short term, then this is a good choice.