Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Craft (Andrew Flemming, 1996)

Even though there are four chicks on the poster, only one of them is giving off what I would consider a Goth vibe. I mean, what gives, The Craft, mid-90s gothploitation yarn about a trio of teen witches who befriend a new teen witch in order to complete "the circle," or some nonsense like that? Why are you short-changing me, Goth-wise? If I'm gonna sit down and watch a movie about four teenage girls who practice witchcraft in their spare time, at least half of them better be Goths, or, at the very least, Goth-adjacent. Which brings me back to the film's poster. One Goth? That's it? What a rip off. Thankfully, the one Goth is played by Fairuza Balk. In other words, I think it's safe to say that she has enough Goth in her to make up for the non-Goth vibe the other girls are putting out there. Still, it's kind of weird that Robin Tunney, Neve Campbell and Rachel True weren't all that Goth. Think about it, they're teenage girls who spend nearly all their time together. What I mean is, do they shop for clothes separately? It makes no sense. I know, the producers probably told the director to tone down the film's Gothiness, as "Middle America" isn't ready for a movie that is chock-full of Goth chicks. But still, you would think they all shop at the same store.

What does Fairuza Balk do, sneak off to Ipso Facto and Retail Slut (which was still open in 1996) to buy clothes when no one is looking? It's the only logical explanation I come up with at the moment. I was going to make a comment about Fairuza's character not being able to afford the pricey Goth cthreads she wears in this movie (after all, she's lives in a trailer with her white trash, Connie Francis-loving mom). But then it dawned on me, Fairuza, or, I should say, Nancy Downs, doesn't pay for anything. Or maybe she does. She could work at the Yarn Barn during the summer months, what do I know?

What I do know is, Fairuza Balk looks fantastic in this movie (pointy granny boots!!! PVC raincoats!!!), and she is the only reason people should watch this movie. And not only does Fairuza Balk look fantastic, she gives an amazing performance. Sure, it gets sort of campy near the end. But you're never going catch me complaining about an actor's performance being too campy. No, I think Fairuza Balk's performance strikes a nice balance between measured and campy. (Measured? Fairuza Balk in The Craft? What movie were you watching?) Yeah, I guess she starts camping it up before the opening credits even begin. Either way, it was fun watching Fairuza Balk do battle with a bunch of colossal squares.

Oh, who am I kidding? There's no "bunch" of colossal squares. There's only one colossal square. That's right, I'm looking at you, Robin Tunney. Or, I should say, Robin Tunney, The Goth Ruiner. Now, I'm not saying the future star of The Mentalist single-handedly ruined Goth. But she does undermine it, like, big time.

In fact, this movie was recently rated (and by "recently" I mean 1998) the most anti-Goth movie of all-time by The Goth Anti-Defamation League. What's that? There is no Goth Anti-Defamation League. Funny, I could have sworn there was. Anyway, Robin Tunney, who doesn't have a single Goth bone in her body, repeatedly undercuts Fairuza Balk's attempt to create a world where Goths are accepted as productive members of society.

And, not to the mention, Nancy does her darnedest to bring would-be rapists to justice. (Huh?) Pay attention, man, Skeet Ulrich totally tries to force himself on Robin Tunney's Sarah Bailey at one point. It's true, he was under the influence of a love spell. But still... it was a dick move on his part.

Nonetheless, Sarah thinks Nancy has gone too far, and decides right then and there that she wants out of her so-called coven.

Just for the record, the most anti-Goth movie in history has to be The Breakfast Club. The de-Gothification of Ally Sheedy's character by Molly Ringwald is pretty much the most heinous thing I've ever seen in a motion picture (I can still taste the vomit it produced).

Okay, what was I saying before I got sidetracked? Oh, yeah, Robin Tunney, the true villain of the piece, shows up at this new Catholic high school, located in a part of L.A. where torrential rainfall (a.k.a. overstated movie rain) is, apparently, quite common, and sets about destroying a coven of teenage witches.

Well, she doesn't attempt to destroy the coven right away. The first thing she does is flirt with Skeet Ulrich. However, when Skeet rejects her, Robin Tunney quickly sets her sights on Fairuza Balk's Nancy Downs, Neve Campbell's Bonnie (whose body is covered in scars) and Rachel True's Rochelle (who is being bullied by a perky white supremacist).

The perky white supremacist, by the way, who is played by the always funny, Christine Taylor, gets the film's biggest laugh with the line, "I don't like Negroids." I know, it might not look all that hilarious on paper. But Christine's delivery of the line is pure gold. Plus, you don't usually hear racists use the word "Negroid" all that much anymore.

When the girls start making wish spells, Neve Campbell's character obviously wishes her scars would disappear. And when they do, that means... you guessed it, black hold-up stockings! Show off them creamy, scar-free thighs, you saucy, Guelph-born minx, you. Watching the newly confident Neve Campbell prance around campus in black hold-ups reminded me of that Kids in the Hall sketch where the employees at a pizza joint located near a Catholic high school get flustered whenever the girls would come in en masse for their midday 'za. Sure, it helps that a pre-Party of Five Neve Campbell appears in that sketch, but it's still an apt reference.

You would think that a film that boasts a soundtrack that is laced with lame cover versions of songs by The Beatles (Our Lady Peace), The Cars (Letters to Cleo) and The Smiths (Love Spit Love), features Breckin Meyer (at the height of his floppy-haired obnoxiousness) and has an anti-Goth temperament would be easy to dismiss as bland mid-90s twaddle. But I have to admit, I have a soft spot for The Craft. Granted, it's mainly do to Fairuza Balk's go for broke performance as a poor white trash Goth with an expensive Goth wardrobe... (Don't forget, she also attends a pricey private school.) Well, yeah, that doesn't make a lick of sense. As I was saying, focus on Fairuza, and you should be able to navigate the film's weaker moments with a lavender-scented ease.


  1. Despite it's many flaws I do love this movie and feel the need to watch it every so often.