Blumhouse’s reign of horror dominance only continues to grow, with producer Jason Blum’s wisely incorporating several well-known brands into his portfolio (The Invisible Man, Halloween, and Fantasy Island were all hits at the box office). Blum’s enterprising spirit treks forward with The Craft: Legacy, the long-awaited follow-up to the 1996 cult horror hit. While this sequel tries to reinvent its predecessor with a modern sensibility, Legacy never escapes the shadow of its far superior contemporary.
The Craft: Legacy follows Lilly (Cailee Spaeny), a teen moving to a new town with her mom Helen (Michelle Monaghan) and her motivational speaking father-in-law Adam (David Duchovny). While struggling to escape the cruel norms of high school life, Lilly is befriended by Lourdes (Zoey Luna), Frankie (Gideon Adlon), and Tabby (Lovie Simone), three inspiring witches looking for their fourth member. When the four try to evoke positive change with their newfound powers, they soon discover not all is as it seems when a sinister force interferes with their intentions.
My interest in Legacy peaked with the involvement of writer/director Zoe-Lister Jones, a sharp talent who proved her immense ability with 2017’s underrated character-drama Band Aid. In her first foray in genre filmmaking, Jones thankfully imbues her own thoughtful lens into the narrative framework.
Whereas the original Craft stood as a potent portrait of the 90’s anti-conformity movement, Legacy operates as a critical condemnation of the uber-masculinity that permeates through dated gender roles. It’s a strong conceit, one that Jones renders through metaphorical plotting and a few strong character-driven moments (Timmy, a bully who gets turned into a socially-progressive peer by the witches, offers raw reflections on his sexuality). I also appreciate Jones’ ability to ground the film into our modern zeitgeist, conveying these sentiments without implementing a mawkish heavy-handedness.
This well-realized foundation is part of what makes Legacy’s faulty final product so disappointing to endure. Whether the film was hacked in post-production or trimmed during filming, there’s a lingering sense that this is an unfinished product.
During the film’s brisk 97 minute runtime, subplots are introduced without resolution, the witchcraft process is reduced to meer montages, and the core witches rarely get time to grow onscreen (outside of Lilly, the other three witches lack dynamic qualities or proper depth, each speaking through the same wise-cracking dialogue). While I don’t want to unfairly hold this sequel to the original’s standard, the 96′ film incorporated patience and care with its development. Each of the central four had an arc and unique presence, with their journey towards witchcraft being carefully-designed from the opening frames. Legacy feels so truncated that none of its characters possess any real gravity onscreen.
From a genre perspective, the horror elements are frankly nonexistent. Not to bring up the original again (I swear, this is the last time!), but The Craft balanced witchcraft’s respective allures with an uncontrollable danger, as the character’s wishes come with their own unforeseen dark side. Here, a third act twist mitigates any consequences that could’ve come from the witches actions, with the only source of danger deriving from a villain that’s equally predictable and flat. Once the witchcraft is finally on display, Jones can’t elevate her low-budget assets into visually compelling sequences, with the third act landing with an awkward thud rather than a roaring climax (a last-second reveal offers unsatisfactory fanfare).
Making a film is a hard, especially when operating in a studio system that assigns specific mandates to follow upon. While The Craft: Legacy doesn’t really work, I do appreciate the conceits Jones brings to the table. She’s got a pulse on genuine dynamics, something that I hope she can employ more successfully with future projects.
We hope you're enjoying BRWC. You should check us out on our social channels, subscribe to our newsletter, and tell your friends. BRWC is short for battleroyalewithcheese.