Craft, The (1996 with Robin Tunney and Fairuza Balk)

USA / 1996

Director: Andrew Fleming
Writer: Peter Filardi, Andrew Fleming
Cast: Robin Tunney, Fairuza Balk, Neve Campbell, Rachel True, Skeet Ulrich

Made on a budget of $15 million, The Craft was a supernatural surprise for its distributor, pulling in $24 million in the US alone.

In doing so, Fleming’s film is remarkable for two reasons: one, that it pre-empted the horror boom that was about to follow (the Scream trilogy, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Halloween H20, etc), and two, that it correctly guessed that there was a market for these movies among teenage girls.

Roughly coinciding with the arrival of the Spice Girls, The Craft could easily be read as part of the Girl Power manifesto. Robin Tunney stars as Sarah, a new arrival in Los Angeles who finds her snooty high school crowd hard to fit in with. Instead, she gravitates to a fringe group of outsiders: Nancy (Fairuza Balk), a white-trash rebel despised by jocks and cheerleaders, Bonnie (Neve Campbell), who is horribly ashamed of the scars on her back, and African-American Rochelle (Rachel True), the butt of racist bullying.

Forming a coven of witches, the four pass their witchcraft exams with honours, using their powers to get even. This leads to some extremely creepy and almost psychedelic shock effects (Sarah returns home to find it riddled with 3,000 real live snakes) but the film belongs to the truly terrifying Balk, whose cold, piercing mascara’d eyes have never since found a better movie. The New York Times rudely (but quite fairly) proclaimed the film “an entertainingly cheesy thriller”.

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