Cinema Style: ‘The Craft’

Rachel True, Fairuza Balk, Robin Tunney and Neve Campbell in ’The Craft.’
Photo: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Just about every supernatural genre has been made into a movie or TV show in recent years. We’ve had vampires (Twilight, Vampire Diaries), werewolves (Hemlock Grove and Teen Wolf, obvs), ghosts (Paranormal Activity), and aliens (The Host and, arguably, Spring Breakers). But it’s been awhile since the spotlight was solely focused on witches frolicking in our movie magic midst, that is unless you include the now defunct TV series The Secret Circle (RIP), which went poof in the night practically overnight. Sure, we’re huge Bonnie Bennett fans, so all due props to Kat Graham’s role on Vampire Diaries, but I want to turn your attention to the campy, beloved, choker-laden, creepy coven flick, The Craft. Not only does it defy all other cinematic witchery (Hocus Pocus, anyone?) and TV show copycats like Charmed, it takes your average teens-with-powers story and twists it into a riot-grrrl-infused parable of good vs evil. Did I mention it’s also full of style sorcery? I’m assuming you’re conjuring images of black lipstick, mesh gloves, and the entire contents of Hot Topic pooling around your ankles in a Manic Panic-infused slurry of striped purple angst. Fear not, there’s a humble dose of 1990s mini skirt and thigh-high power in these parts, but just the right sprinkle of weirdo fairy dust, too.

Robin Tunney, Rachel True and Neve Campbell in ’The Craft.’
Photo: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Quick overview: Sarah Bailey (Robin Tunney), a contemplative teen with auburn hair and a penchant for attracting dudes with snakes (both literal and figurative—read into that what you will), moves to sunny Los Angeles, where it’s raining upon her arrival. Cue the foreshadowing! Sarah’s dad drops her off at her new private school, and she proceeds to have the worst first day ever. Everyone’s staring, whispering, and generally acting jerky, especially in French class, which makes her start mouthing off en français. She then retreats into herself, which means her witch powers emerge in the form of making a pencil balance in mid-air. This attracts the attention of Bonnie (Neve Campbell), a meek girl in the back row who really, really needs to wash her hair. Turns out, Bonnie and her pals, Nancy (Fairuza Balk) and Rochelle (Rachel True), are witches and need a fourth member to complete their coven. They go about this by totally vibing Sarah around school like a trio of emo gargoyles with rosaries swinging around their necks, especially when Sarah gets chatted up by Chris (Skeet Ulrich), the cutest boy in school. But it eventually works, and Sarah ditches school with them. If M.I.A. had written “Bad Girls” in 1996, this would have been the witches’ theme song.

Rachel True, Fairuza Balk, Neve Campbell and Robin Tunney in ’The Craft.’
Photo: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Where does the style come in you ask? Well, this is all set at a private school in LA, so the witches tweak their plaid skirts and white shirts in unique ways. The Craft is actually a classic lesson in how to make your school uniform cool without getting in trouble. It’s all about layering a black cardigan, fitted blazer, or anorak over your shirt and then punching up your accessories. Rochelle does the whole masculine/feminine thing with suspenders, a tie, and bright barrettes, while Sarah and Bonnie either go with thigh-highs (à la Carly Rae Jepsen) or a great black boot. All of the girls opt for multiple long necklaces—which enliven any ensemble—as well as dangling, feminine earrings. Nancy, trapped in the valley between punk and riot grrrl, takes it all a much darker step further, though. In addition to wearing a classic black leather motorcycle jacket, her ever present spiked choker seems fused to her neck space. But it all works with dark red lips, black rimmed eyes, and some stellar eyebrow shaping. Seriously, an entire look can change with a simple tweeze.

Neve Campbell, Fairuza Balk and Rachel True in ’The Craft.’
Photo: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

The gals form their coven of magical mystery powers and unexplainable things start happening. A man with a snake dies—which they all think they invoked—so they try casting spells. Sarah wants Chris to like her even though he told the whole school a nasty rumor about her, and even though she looks super cute in floral maxi dresses layered over long-sleeve tees and should totally go for someone else. Pretty Rochelle wants to stop being bullied by a Barbie girl racist, and Bonnie wants her scarred back to heal so she can feel beautiful on the inside and out. Sociopathic Nancy wants “all the powers of Manon,” meaning she wants to be mega powerful, which is always the main ingredient in a delicious recipe of CRAY. All of the spells work, but in a much more extreme way than the witches expect, and in the process Nancy undergoes a metamorphosis that includes a killer long black dress, flowing cape cardi, and some serious lace-up booties.

Fairuza Balk in ’The Craft.’
Photo: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

I don’t want to give it all away, but let’s just say there’s major hair loss, levitating, two life makeovers, a witch mentor, butterflies, a spell that changes your hair color with the swipe of a hand (why doesn’t this exist in real life?!), and some deaths that may or may not involve members of the shark family. It’s bonkers, people, and I’m not even getting anywhere close to the witch-on-witch showdown—complete with super squeamish effects involving buckets of maggots and various arachnids—at Sarah’s Spanish-style abode with its wrought iron staircase and pristine tile work. EPIC.

The Craft has a message, too. It’s all about embracing your inner uniqueness and using your girl powers for good rather than evil. The film seems ahead of its time in regards to bullying and even touches upon the unhealthy relationships girls sometimes have in their teens. It might feel comforting to be a part of a group, even though the people around you don’t make you feel good about yourself, but sooner or later it will implode or you’ll have to take a stand. Like Sarah, those who are different and harness that power for the good of themselves and others are the ones who end up stronger in the end. The motto of the movie may feel like what a bus driver says to the witches: “You girls watch out for the weirdos,” and to which Nancy replies, “We are the weirdos, mister.” But it’s really more in line with what Sarah says at the beginning of the movie: “Yeah, well, you know what they say… you are who you hang with.”


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