The first act of The Craft: Legacy is great. It’s full of lush and beautiful aesthetics; vibrant florals, effervescent sparkles, like an Instagram filter conjured to life. And that’s a compliment, because it’s the world these characters occupy: a modern world informed by technology that renders life more beautifully than it is. For a split second, Legacy feels like something fresh and knowing. Like it wandered into the frame of a TikTok Wiccan hashtag and mined it for gruesome possibilities.
Unfortunately, the film never lives up to its initial potential. Instead, The Craft: Legacy offers sparks of brilliance, but is weighed down by a final act that has “lost in reshoots” written all over it. It’s a shame, because director Zoe Lister-Jones is clearly talented. She amassed a wonderful young cast, and infused the film with the energy it needed to play cards with the 1996 original. That’s why the ending is especially troubling. Because it doesn’t mesh at all with what comes before. The final result feels tampered with in some needless effort to connect it to its predecessor. But this Craft was just fine on its own.
The young cast is splendid. Cailee Spaeny excels as our central character Lily, whose youthful vitality is anchored by an old-soul knowingness. Lily has a close relationship with her mother Helen (Michelle Monaghan), whose moving the pair to a new town so she can settle in with her boyfriend Adam (David Duchovny). This puts Lily in a fish-out-of-water scenario, and Spaeny masters this. You understand her, you feel for her when things go wrong—as they’re wont to do in films like this—and you empathize with her new role in this family she doesn’t understand. She’s looking for her place in this strange environment. And luckily, it isn’t long before she finds it.
Lily has a power that attracts a coven of fellow high school girls. They’re on the hunt for their fourth member, and know right away that Lily is it. Why? She can hear their telepathic whispers to skip detention. And she has the ability to make things happen with her mind. You know, typical witch stuff. The coven is made up of Frankie (Gideon Adlon), Tabby (Lovie Simone), and Lourdes (Zoey Luna), who each represent a direction and its corresponding element. Frankie is the south’s air, Tabby the east’s fire, and Lourdes the north’s earth. Which makes Lily their west’s water. She agrees to join and together, the coven’s powers are unstoppable. But with all of that power comes a price.
The Craft: Legacy is wonderful when it spends time with these girls. It’s subversive, refreshingly modern, and inclusive—and, in fact, challenges the original’s lack of inclusivity. It doesn’t best what came before, but it lives up to the “craft” of its title, which would have been more than enough. But it’s in the “legacy” where things start to fall apart.
The film would have worked best as a standalone with shades of the original peppered in. There are times where it feels like a soft reboot, and therein lie its strengths. When the coven interferes with the life of classmate Timmy (Nicholas Galitzine), they learn the weight of their power. It’s an important lesson for them: that their magic has consequences. Unfortunately, this lesson is undone by a series of tacked-on revelations that feel completely unearned. The whole finale feels like a bad episode of The X-Files. And if you’ve seen the spoilery trailers, you probably have an idea of where things are headed.
Ultimately, the film squanders its wonderful potential for a few cheap “aha” moments that never coalesce. In fact, they turn the whole film into one giant, incomprehensible mess. “Your difference is your power,” Helen often tells her daughter. If only The Craft: Legacy has listened.
Featured Image: Blumhouse