A Look Back: The Craft

Bus Driver: “Girls, watch out for the weirdos.”

Nancy: “We are the weirdos, mister.” (The Craft)

Nancy (Fairuza Balk), a Catholic high school student and the leader of a group of outcast girls who become a coven in “The Craft,” isn’t kidding. Fairuza, who was the go-to actress for “edgy” heroines after Winona Ryder passed for awhile, plays a trailer trash rebel, who meets new girl, Robin Tunney (veteran of many indies), and enlists her because hey, they need four witches for the “corners.” The other two are Neve Campbell, best known at the time for biting her lip and looking adorably persecuted on the TV show “Party of Five,” and Rachel True, who I still have no idea about her acting career, but who does an equally terrific job here. Neve is understandably self-conscious due to burn marks on her back, while Rachel’s problem is the racist Queen Bee (Christine Taylor) on her swim team. Oddly enough, the girls don’t hit it off at first, rather there’s friction, but eventually, they get together. Although Robin’s initial issue is with the trio, she soon winds up having a less-than-ideal first date with the school sports star (Skeet Ulrich), and winds up getting slut-shamed – even though technically nothing occurred. After that, she’s more than willing to join a group that promises the chance of revenge.

Although she seems bright and stable enough, we eventually learn that Robin has survived a suicide attempt, which will play a role in the end climax. Robin also has a history of having unexplainable stuff happen to her, stuff that might just be magic. This tendency meshes nicely with the other girls’ study of spells and whatnot, and soon they are actually doing magic – and getting revenge on their tormentors. Revenge like Fairuza and her mom getting to move into a swanky high rise, and Skeet’s becoming hopelessly devoted to the very uninterested Robin. But things take a sinister turn when the girls attempt to conjure up a real live spirit – and succeed. It’s the classic, “Be careful what you wish for,” and eventually friction again flares between Robin, whose only problem is that she has a conscience and wants to put the kibosh on the revenge thing, and the others. This is definitely not what Fairuza wants – and there are signs that she’s not just overly keen on witchery but actually possessed. Get ready for a showdown, involving magic, blood and one of the girls being committed to a mental institution.

Fairuza also played a somewhat younger witch in “The Worst Witch,” which is what you would get if you put a kid’s movie and a musical in a blender and pushed Puree. I don’t recommend it, but “The Craft” is worth a watch if you’re stuck at home handing out candy to munchkins on Halloween. One critic who reviewed it at the time argued that it sends an anti-feminist message since the girls are ultimately punished – but their only crime is going too far. Revenge, it’s said, is a dish best served cold, and perhaps while in the crucible of adolescence, it’s impossible not to be heated by passion.

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