As with every reboot, sequel, remake, retelling of a cult classic story, ‘The Craft: Legacy‘ bumped into a whole lot of protest when Amazon Prime released the first trailer of the SEQUEL to 1996’s ‘The Craft‘. Just like its predecessor, a trio of witches are hoping to find their fourth member to complete their little coven and so give every element and direction a body to express their full potential and unknown powers to grow to its full extent.

When Lily (Cailee Spaeny – ‘Devs‘) and her mother move in with her new partner and his three teenage sons, she tries hard to fit in at her brand new school, where her first day doesn’t exactly go as planned. After a menstrual incident in class, three classmates come to the rescue in the bathroom with a clean pair of shorts and some comforting words to calm the nerves. We quickly find out these three young women are seen as complete misfits at school, even though they look just like everybody else. Or maybe I’m one of the weirdo’s after all, and I just felt a natural connection to them. American high schools and their cliques, what’s new? What follows is an exploration and celebration of femininity, sexuality and identity, where power abuse will have this coven rethink their choices, while dealing with toxic masculinity, bullying, heteronormativity and the unexpected evil that comes with it.

As a fan of the original, I have to say, this sequel isn’t as much of a copy as the trailer made it look like. Does it borrow tiny bits from its predecessor? Absolutely! But those small snippets get brushed over so quickly during a montage of this group of friends’ bonding that it’s hardly worth mentioning. What does strike me as peculiar, is how the edges have been softened significantly compared to the first ‘The Craft‘. Where that film dealt with some serious dark magic, this one very much feels like a dynamically effervescent young adult story that could’ve brushed just a little bit harder against that scary R-rating. It becomes clear that in certain moments throughout the film, specific imagery (e.g. a used condom they find in a guy’s bedroom) gets talked about but never shown. Not that it changes anything, but by focusing on the censoring, it becomes even clearer how much the studio was trying to keep that PG-13 rating.

Director Zoe Lister-Jones, who also wrote this sequel, creates a brighter and more “woke” world for an entirely new generation, and somehow makes it work. Her all-inclusive writing works so well, mainly because Lister-Jones knows exactly who her target audience is. Not all fans of the original will be pleased with the end result, but isn’t it also time to give today’s teenagers something to fangirl over? I believe there’s enough here for fans to get excited about, although they could’ve toned it down on the telekinesis and amped up the actual spells and rituals.

This young adult sequel is never scary, yet stays engaging until its rather jaw-dropping ending. The young cast works their magic while keeping the banter entertaining and natural, with each of them getting their own moment to sparkle with witty oneliners and a strong personality. The two adults, played by David Duchovny (‘The X-Files‘) and Michelle Monaghan (‘Messiah‘) each give decent performances, but are severely underutilized. Especially Monaghan sometimes completely vanishes for entire chunks in the film, which is weird when her teenage daughter is in a house with four strangers. After the strong mother-daughter-connection gets established early on to the tunes of Alanis Morissette’s “One Hand In My Pocket”, her absence during the second act felt rather strange to me.

The Twilight influences are strong with this one. Stephenie Meyer’s vampire love story even gets mentioned at one point in the film, and from then on you can’t help but think of this possibly taking place in the same universe. Luckily, the dialogue is of a higher level and so is the acting, minus the cheesiness. Even Heather Christian’s thrilling score is worth listening to on its own. ‘The Craft: Legacy‘ doesn’t take a lot of time explaining witchcraft or how everything works, but gives just enough for us to sort of understand what the point of all of this is. Legacy works perfectly as a standalone film, while also being a sequel that has just enough of a connection to the original 1996 high school thriller to hopefully give us the best of both worlds in a third chapter.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Review – ‘The Craft: Legacy’

Reviewed online, October 28, 2020. Rating: M. Running time: 97 min.

PRODUCTION: An Amazon Video Prime (USA) and Sony Pictures Releasing (theatrical international) release of a Blumhouse Productions, Columbia Pictures, Red Wagon Entertainment production. Producers: Jason Blum, Lucy Fisher, Douglas Wick. Executive producers: Natalia Anderson, Daniel Bekerman, Andrew Fleming, Zoe Lister-Jones, Couper Samuelson, Beatriz Sequeira, Jeanette Volturno, Lucas Wiesendanger.

CREW: Director/screenplay: Zoe Lister-Jones (based on characters created by Peter Filardi). Editing: Libby Cuenin. Cinematography: Hillary Spera. Score: Heather Christian.

WITH: Cailee Spaeny, Zoey Luna, Lovie Simone, Gideon Adlon, David Duchovny, Michelle Monaghan, Nicholas Galitzine, Julian Grey, Charles Vandervaart, Donald MacLean Jr.

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