In 2017’s Band-Aid, writer/director/actor Zoe Lister-Jones (who also had a pretty OK arc on the TV show New Girl) cobbled together an achingly relatable tale of late-stage relationship doldrums and the ways in which couples try to escape their ruts. It was a phenomenal piece of filmmaking that cemented Lister-Jones as a fresh voice to watch, at least for this writer.
In the newly released The Craft: Legacy, however, Lister-Jones deflates that enthusiasm, -disappointing at nearly every turn and presenting a middling and out-of-touch homage to the witchy 1996 original movie—only this time it’s crammed with “hip” zoomer lingo and politics, plus barely there performances from Michelle Monaghan and David Duchovny.
It begins with Lily (Cailee Spaeny), a high schooler of indiscriminate age whose single mother (True Detective’s Monaghan) falls in with some toxic masculinity guru (Duchovny of the vile and unfunny Californication) and decides it’s time to cohabitate. Right away we learn Lily didn’t really have friends in her old town (she’s weird, y’all…with short hair and a mysterious necklace and sad glances and nervousness), but a rocky first day at There Are Probably Witches High tosses her in with a trio of young women/caricatures of modern youth played by Lovie Simone, Gideon Adlon and Zoey Luna. Luna, for what it’s worth, is an out trans actress—which seems cool right up until she gets fewer lines than everyone else and most characters continually refer to “you guys” when addressing her group. Thankfully, there is no trans tragedy angle here, but the witches do hang around and say stuff like “stan” and “lit” and “fam,” and it is annoying.
Like the original movie, the budding witches realize their powers, told here in montage form. Lily, it seems, has the strongest abilities, and the quartet uses their newfound magick (with a “k”) to do fun things and good things and less good things and creepy things. Somewhere in there, Lister-Jones buries would-be interesting thoughts on toxic masculinity, performative woke-ness and consent, but whereas the real-life Gen Z seems to have bravely rejected gender norms, rape culture and racism wholesale, The Craft: Legacy examines such topics too fleetingly before placing the main dilemma of the film on Lily’s inability to process her emotions.
Or so it seems, anyway. Cue last act fall-apart, a one-two lightweight punch of dual twists that surely won’t resonate with the young audiences at which the movie’s aimed—or even at the slightly older set the filmmakers obviously hope loved the ’96 Neve Campbell/Fairuza Balk romp.
In the end, one thing is clear: They want a sequel for this one very badly, but it’s our duty as citizens of cinema to never let that happen.
-Literally most everything else
The Craft: Legacy
Directed by Lister-Jones
With Spaeny, Simone, Adlon, Luna, Monaghan and Duchovny
VoD, PG-13, 97 min.