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The Craft (1996)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 10/13/2009

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/11/2009

Most every film lover should have them; memories of seeing specific films in the theater - be the experience positive or negative. However, with the movie The Craft, my recollection is a bit fuzzy. I know that I saw the movie in the theater back in 1996, but I don't remember anything about that experience. Here's what I do remember though; at that time, my wife and I were going to the movies at least once a week or more and we saw the trailer for The Craft many, many times. So, when it finally opened, we were very excited to see it and were very, very disappointed. Having not seen the film in well over a decade, I decided to give it another try on Blu-ray Disc.

The Craft introduces us to Sarah (Robin Tunney), a teenager who has just moved to a new town with her father and stepmother. On her first day at school, she is introduced to three girls, Nancy (Fairuza Balk), Bonnie (Neve Campbell) and Rochelle (Rachel True), all of whom dress completely in black. Their classmates fear them, but Sarah doesn't. She spends the afternoon with the girls and learns that they are into witchcraft. Sensing that Sarah may have powers, Bonnie and Rochelle convince Nancy to let her join their group. Soon, the quartet are spending every moment together, discussing their wants and dreams. Bonnie would like to have the scar tissue on her back removed. Rochelle wishes that a girl at school named Laura (Christine Taylor) would stop picking on her. The group performs a ritual on the beach that suddenly infuses them with power. But, Nancy lets the power overtake her emotions and her jealous feelings that Sarah has now become the leader of the group suddenly make her very dangerous.

Oh, OK, now I remember why I didn't like The Craft. The idea is a fairly simple, yet easily accessible one; this is essentially The Lost Boys, but with girls instead of boys and witches instead of vampires. Screenwriter Peter Filardi has taken an interesting, if not wholly original, stab at the awkward feelings that one has when entering a new school. Sarah is somewhat alienated from her parents and finding a new group of friends seems like a good thing for her. From the audience's perspective, we have a fairly good feeling that this new clique won't bode well for Sarah and this feeling of anticipation helps to draw the viewer into the film.

However, there is very little payoff here. Despite several special-effects laden scenes of the girls doing magic and some bickering between them, the movie is leaden and dull throughout. Even the action-filled finale doesn't really have any bite. It's not a problem with pacing, as Director Andrew Fleming (who had ventured into the horror realm before with 1988's Bad Dreams) keeps things moving along pretty well. There's simply something anemic about the movie. Despite the fact that it offers some violence and magical scenes of revenge, there's never a real sense of menace here. Nor is the movie ever the least bit creepy or scary.

I squarely place blame for this on two factors. First, (and I know that this is going to sound odd) The Craft is one of those films where it's difficult to feel anything for the characters because, frankly, they brought this upon themselves. Sarah and the girls are told that using magic (or is it magick?) incorrectly will come back to bite them in the ass, but they don't listen. So, when bad things start to happen, we can't help but have a "They told you so!" attitude. The other problem with the film is Fairuza Balk. Nancy is supposed to be intimidating, and at first, she kinda is. But, as the film progresses, and Nancy gets more out of control, so does Balk's performance. Suddenly, she's leering into the camera and chewing the scenery and I'm wondering, "Why didn't someone rein her in?" Her attempts at scary border on campy.

Seeing The Craft again, I recalled my expectations for the film and completely remembered what had caused them. The movie has a lot of potential which is completely squandered. The idea of high-school witches has been done many times, and I can't really think of one which gets it right. But, I do know that none had more promise, and thus more of a let down, than The Craft.

The Craft needs to seriously apologize to the sharks on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at 25 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing only slight grain (although some of the special effects shots show more grain) and no defects from the source material. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. Despite this nice look, the image is notably flat and doesn't have the sort of depth we expect from Blu-ray. The Disc has a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track (I know I've asked this before, but when did Sony switch to DTS?) which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.0 Mbps. This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This track does a great service to the film's sound mix, as we are treated to some nice surround, stereo, and subwoofer effects. The stereo effects show nice separation and are good for off-screen sounds. The surround effects really come into play during the "magic" scenes. The subwoofer effects kick in durig the beach scene and the finale.

The Craft Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. We start with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Andrew Fleming. "Conjuring The Craft" (25 minutes) is a retrospective making of featurette...well, retrospective is a subjective term, as it was made in 2000. Still, it contains comments from Fleming, Writer Peter Filardi, Producer Douglas Wick, and actresses Robin Tunney and Rachel True. They discuss the film's production, the story, and the research into witchcraft for the film. "The Original Behind the Scenes of The Craft" (6 minutes) is more of an electronic press kit featurette, as it contains on-set comments from the cast. The Disc contains three DELETED SCENES which run about 7 minutes and can be viewed with optional commentary from Fleming. One scene is sort of new while the others are moments which are implied in the movie, but not explicitly seen. My question is, where's the scene where Laura apologizes to Rochelle? This scene starts in the film, but we never see the whole thing.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long