This post was written by Shelli Nicole and Drew Gregory. Spoilers below for The Craft: Legacy!
Drew Gregory: I want to start by asking: what’s your relationship to the original The Craft?
Shelli Nicole: I first saw The Craft in middle school — I found it the same way I did all other movies which was just picking something out of bins based on the cover. It looked cool. I liked their outfits and I desperately wanted to be a Catholic schoolgirl so it all balanced out. It didn’t scare me and I was completely fascinated by it. I’ve been attached to some form of magick (whether knowingly or not) forever so it was dope. What I really remember though was it was the first time I saw the mean white girl in the movie actually just like be unapologetically racist.
I also rewatch it a lot throughout the year now, not just in spooky season. What’s your relationship to it?
Drew: The Craft is one of those movies that I saw as a kid in the context of my sister or hanging out with friends of mine who were girls. And those movies always felt like they weren’t for me! So I was drawn to them while also sort of shutting down any enthusiasm? But then I rewatched it a few years ago and was both really taken with it and also frustrated by some of the ways the plot develops. I was like wow this is great and also wow this really needs a remake hopefully made by women. So when this new one was announced I was really excited.
As a big fan of the original were you excited about the remake?
Shelli: I am notoriously a huge and loud hater of remakes, especially if I was a fan of the original. I don’t remember but I am sure I retweeted the announcement of the remake with an eye roll emoji attached. There are just way too many people with way too many great original ideas for us to be remaking films using better cameras and more inclusive actors. So I wasn’t excited but I was intrigued, like, I knew I was gonna watch it but I didn’t expect much. Since watching it though — in the words of my Canadian pseudo dancehall king— “I’m Upset.” As a real filmmaker though how do you feel about remakes in general?
Drew: I’ve actually done a 180 over the years! I used to hate them and now I love them! Well, love is a strong word. I guess my feeling is if they’re bad I can ignore them and the original still exists — and let’s be honest they’re usually bad — but if they’re good they can twist an old story in new and interesting ways. What frustrates me is how often remakes aren’t actually doing anything new — or doing it well.
This one definitely has the markers of one doing something new — written and directed by a woman, explicitly engaging with politics — but I am also Upset.
I think it’s safe to assume our feelings on The Craft: Legacy are… similar?
Shelli: So I saw your rating on Letterboxd and purposely didn’t read the review because I wanted to not be spoiled but yes, I think we both feel mad similar. I think with remakes you should be ready to expect hella critique, especially if the original is so beloved. I think this time they thought that doing things like bringing in a woman director, adding a trans character and dropping in Gen Z lingo would do the job, but I was massively disappointed. If we want to introduce newer generations to things we love — just show them the original and take it from there.
Drew: A pattern I’ve been noticing that really bums me out is work that is more explicitly political, but somehow feels less political?? The Craft: Legacy has very specific commentary on toxic masculinity — David Duchovny’s villain is basically Jordan Peterson — but none of the characters felt developed enough for any of that to work. If the girls don’t feel like real human beings, how is that feminist?
Shelli: Oh don’t get me started on what this film was trying to do with feminism — it all felt VERY WHITE.
Drew: Extremely. And despite the inclusion of a trans actress very cis and straight!!
Shelli: VERY CIS. VERY STRAIGHT. VERY WHITE. That simply deserves to be said in all caps and it shows because that is who the writer/director Zoe Lister-Jones is. It’s another case of them putting well-meaning white women at the helm of something, thinking they will do the right thing and create a good and interesting message, and then they simply don’t.
For example, the character Timmy, when we first meet him he is the asshole toxic jock who tortures our main girl, Lily (or Lilith which I think was the writers way of saying “See I did a little research on Magick!”). Then as the film goes on, all the girls meet and start to form this friendship and their first major non-consensual spell — which is a message that runs through the film constantly — turns him into this “woke white boy with a heart of gold — who happens to be a bit queer”….and suddenly I am supposed to like him? Certainly the fuck not.
Drew: So I saw Zoe Lister-Jones’ previous film Band Aid in theatres and I thought it was a really charming, really great indie romcom. But it was also one of the straightest, cis-est movies I’ve ever seen. I watched it like a month after coming out and it felt the same as when I attended my straight cousin’s wedding around the same time. I was like WOW THERE IS GENDER HAPPENING HERE. But in a very simplistic way. So I will say when she was announced as the writer/director of this… I had worries. The Craft is just one of those movies that isn’t gay but is So Gay.
I think she’s really interested in these simplistic gender roles that are true to her experience and because of that I actually found some of the Timmy stuff to be what worked best. Not the beginning where they’re drooling over him for “calling himself cisgender” and quoting Janet Mock. But when he comes out. I think maybe it’s because he was given way more backstory and characterization than any of the girls? But then he dies!! This is a movie with four straight girls and one bi guy and then the bi guy dies. Yikes.
Shelli: You said earlier that something that bums you out is the pattern of work (I assume you mean remakes) being explicitly more political. Where in this remake did you see that happening?
Drew: Oh no! I want movies, especially horror, to be explicitly political. My problem is when filmmakers confuse political words with actual politics.
Shelli: Ahhh I see!
Drew: For example, having those trans related signifiers for Timmy’s progressiveness felt really gross in the context that the trans character is 1) given no backstory and few characteristics and 2) only established as trans in the context of her supposedly progressive friend’s microaggression. This article makes a big thing about the moment when Lourdes calls out Frankie for saying women are magical because of childbirth. But I actually hated that. The trans character only exists to educate her friend? There is more to being a trans woman than not having a period and not giving birth. And if this is supposed to be an escapist girl power fantasy her friend should know that — the movie should too.
It would be more political to leave out the lingo, the teaching moments, and the explicit allegory, and have these girls be established in their identities and their connection to one another.
Shelli: When it came to Timmy, the fact that he had more backstory, this cisgender white boy, than any of the other characters bothered the hell out of me. I thought it was disgusting how they made the girls fawn over him because he mentioned Janet Mock, called himself cis, and then had Princess Nokia (who is 75% blackfishing us) on his playlist. Also, I didn’t care about him, he should have just been used as a means to push the plot forward and not become such a major part of it. This movie is supposed to be about the girls, their coven, their thoughts, and I feel like that got totally overshadowed.
Drew: Having them all fawn over him sucked! They’re ALL straight?? I mean I guess they could be bi but that isn’t hinted at at all.
Shelli: Similar to what they did to Lourdes and her transness they did to Tabby and her blackness.
Drew: Yes totally. I wanted to ask your thoughts on the two truths and a lie moment because I just wrote in my notes: YIKES.
Shelli: When they did two truths and a lie, everything she said was about blackness. Wishing she had more black friends, talking about being fearful for her black brother, and then being like “I love Beyonce” — we get it Zoe…she’s black and political and kinda hates herself. Also, making her corner the “South” corner to call and also making sure a lot of the magickal elements she wore or had in her locker were VooDoo or Hoodoo based? Lazy. I wish the director’s name was Susan so I could say Lazy Susan.
I hated that a period and childbirth were the signifiers for us to know that Lourdes was trans — it was also completely lazy. It’s a film that clearly had the money and investment where they could have hired trans writers, bi writers, black writers to at least be in the room and say, “We can do way better than this”
Drew: Yeah I don’t understand Zoe Lister-Jones not writing this with someone else. On the one hand, I want to be like yay a woman writer/director being hired on her own for a studio movie. But is the goal actually to have a cis straight white woman make the same mistakes cis straight white men have been making for decades? That’s not progress to me.
Shelli: Can we talk about the theme of non-consent running through the film?
Shelli: So one thing I expect more from with woman directors is they take on the task of removing rape as a device to move a plot in any way. Is it an ask that requires more work, more creativity, and more time? Yes, but also it can be done. At one point in the film the girls talk about only using magick for good and I agree. As someone who practices magick and witchcraft I will tell you there are not many rules — although there are people who try to gatekeep it — magick is what you want it to be and your practice may not resemble others BUT one thing many witches, if not all, agree on is you do not try to bend the will of others in any way shape or form. So when they break into Timmy’s house, use his ejaculate to create a spell and bend his will, obviously they broke consent, as well as when they bound each other’s magick but didn’t tell Lily they were taking hers away after acknowledging that taking consent away from someone is bad. But the biggest one is the hint that Lily’s stepfather raped her mother while she was in a crisis center and that is how she came to be.
Why did it have to be rape? They don’t explicitly say he raped her but if you put two and two together in that whack ass speech he said in the forest you can understand it. Sexual assault and rape does NOT have to be used in a film to push a movie forward and no one can tell me any different. If this movie was supposed to be the pussy hat feminist remake they wanted it to be that should have been one of the first things they focused on not using as a device.
Drew: I honestly did not catch that with the stepfather. And to me that confirms that yeah it wasn’t handled with the depth to be anything more than a device. I agree that’s unnecessary.
With Timmy I wish they’d made it clear that the spell was like… to bring out the good in someone? Or something? Because that’s ultimately what’s sort of established. It’s like oh Timmy is this bi guy dealing with grief and has all these feelings that he can’t express because of toxic masculinity until they do the spell. That’s interesting to me! Again, weird that so much time is spent on this boy when the girls, even the lead, are all so rushed, but still it’s interesting! But that’s not how it’s framed so even when that storyline was working for me it felt muddled. And then the film doesn’t really engage with the complications of the love spell beyond the rest of the coven being angry at her.
Lily just isn’t a real enough character for us to understand her motivation! Also why aren’t any of them goth! Sorry that’s not the point here. But isn’t it??? The movie is just so glossy and hollow and has all this CGI magic and perfectly made up faces and it just feels like all the things people groan about in remakes and now look at me groaning.
Shelli: I agree though. It was made to look pretty and shiny but it had no depth. The wardrobe was cute and embodied all their elements but I was like “If somebody doesn’t get some acne and black lipstick soon I’m gonna throw this coffee at the screen.”
Drew: When Tabby said “we are the weirdos” like it was “yippee ki yay motherfucker” I was like there is nothing weird about this group of teen models!
Shelli: I was SO MAD at them using that infamous line there!
Drew: As a Blockers stan I did like seeing Gideon Adlon though.
Shelli: As a Selah and the Spades stan I loved seeing Lovie Simone!
Drew: I liked the cast! They just weren’t given characters to work with and how they were presented felt incongruous with the material.
Shelli: The casting was pretty dope, but the movie just did not work for me. Outside of the wardrobe, soundtrack, and beautiful fall foliage, I could have done without this.
They set us up for a third one and I can’t.
Drew: I also wonder why someone like Lily ALWAYS has to be the lead. It’s clear Zoe Lister-Jones probably shouldn’t be writing characters outside her experience alone but I was still annoyed that this supposed progressive reboot still centered this elfish cis straight white girl.
Shelli: Not elfish Drew!! lololololol
Drew: Hahaha well !
And again it’s not that she wasn’t good. It’s just like oh okay sure of course she’s the lead. But it would’ve bothered me less if Tabby and Lourdes felt like people. Hopefully this will lead to Zoey Luna getting more work and I’m glad the set was supposedly a safe place? But outside of that I didn’t feel like this buzzed about trans representation was actually that impressive. My standard is higher than bare minimum inclusion. People say, well it’s extremely rare to have a trans actor in a studio movie. But it shouldn’t be! This is a character who was conceived as trans and who is played by a talented trans actor — the best we can do is a throwaway line about how “trans girls have their own magic too”?
Shelli: I think it’s clear that Hollywood still has a very long way to go, no matter how many awards they give niggas, no matter how many magazine covers trans people grace, and no matter how much they say they love women now — they still are being lazy and not letting us be a part of telling these stories.
Drew: It sucks when it feels so obvious how to do this right and it’s done so wrong. I guess that’s my thing about remakes and reboots. I love them in theory but it’s so rare they actually do what I wish they would.
Shelli: It’s so obvious. Maybe if we got a remake where it’s clear there was hella representation on all fronts from the writers room to the make up chair, I wouldn’t be so hard on them by using my most aggressive emojis.
Drew: I think the problem is remakes are usually greenlit to capitalize on a known property rather than to blow it up in an interesting way.
But I want to say again, because a lot of the cis straight white dude reviewers have been complaining about its “wokeness,” the problem with this movie isn’t that it’s progressive — it’s not progressive! — the problem is it’s bad.
Shelli: Also, if they are complaining that this film is woke that’s sad because to me it’s not at all. It was bad and I will not praise this white woman for casting one trans person, mentioning the fear of being murdered because you’re black, and making a white boy bi. It’s not enough to earn flowers from me.
They know better – it’s just time to do better.
Drew: Bare minimum you cannot get hired to reboot The Craft and come up with a film that’s straighter than the original! I expect to be disappointed with trans representation but at least give us some lezzie witches !!
Drew: Do you have anything else to add before we end this sad discussion? Or maybe you’re not sad because you expected the worst? I was hopeful and naive!!
Shelli: I don’t except yeah where were the dykes lol
The Craft: Legacy is now available to rent across platforms.