Check your angst at the door
The closest pop culture analogy to 2020’s The Craft: Legacy, available now on Blu-ray and DVD, is Love Never Dies, the years-late sequel to Phantom of the Opera: the original was perfect, no one asked for a sequel, reviews are mixed, and now the die-hard fans of the original have to decide what to do about it.
So for the younger Gen Xers/elder Millennials (aka Xennials) for whom The Craft was a beloved touchstone, here’s the news: The Craft: Legacy was not made for you. It’s as different from The Craft as Gen Z is from us. And if you’re going to watch it, you need the same mindset you need for watching Love Never Dies — if you can divorce it from the original in your mind and view it on its own merits, you’ll be much better off.
To be clear, Legacy is indeed a direct sequel to The Craft. But the similarities end with the most basic conceits: three teenage witches are looking for their “fourth,” who just happens to be moving to town. And there the story changes. Protagonist Lily (Cailee Spaeny) and her mom (Michelle Monaghan) are moving in with her mom’s long distance boyfriend Adam (David Duchovny), whom Lily has met before, and his three teenage sons, whom she hasn’t. Lily, about whom we only know she had no friends at her old school, starts attending high school with the older two sons and meets witches Frankie (Gideon Adlon), Tabby (Lovie Simone), and Lourdes (Zoey Luna), who inform her she’s a witch and take her in to their coven. The girls explore their craft and deal with bullies, but with a Gen Z twist — you know, spelling them into wokeness instead of throwing them out windows. In the meantime, things are weird in Adam’s house — Lily has nightmares, occasional vaguely creepy things happen. Adam is an author/public speaker who ostensibly is some kind of male self-help guru. What’s his deal? And what does that have to do with Lily and our witches?
And this is where things break down a little. Legacy doesn’t seem to know quite what it wants to be. Is it a mysterious thriller? Is there an evil cabal? Or is the story about school bullies and crushes and tension with her friends? The non-answers are magnified by some jerky scene changes and random creepiness that seems out of place, as well as a lack of development of her friends as characters. Unfortunately, we’re not given much insight into her friends, who seem reduced to diversity tropes instead of fleshed-out characters as their friendship development occurs mostly in upbeat montages. The extras include deleted scenes that give some background on the individual witches, as well as an extended version of sweet little initiation scene, and I sorely missed seeing those scenes in the film. And when push comes to shove, the ending is pretty anticlimactic.
But past my young GenX/Xennial cynicism, Legacy is a fascinating glimpse into Gen Z. Our witches perform glittery magic with bejeweled accessories, and — trend alert — Caboodles are back, baby! Our girls have a bedazzled Caboodle that serves as a mobile spell/ritual kit (I’m a little jealous). And the overall feel is reflective of Gen Z culture — themes of toxic masculinity, consent (both sexual and magical), LGBTQ+ affirmation, and magical ethics are found throughout, and frankly I’m here for all of it. Like the original, there are even a few solid witchy basics in there before the Hollywood version of magic takes over. And kudos to director Zoe Lister-Jones for throwing us a bone in the form of an opening Alanis jam, a nod to the iconic ’90s soundtrack of the original, before updating to the likes of Princess Nokia and Sharon van Etten (do Zers know her though? Regardless, great use of Seventeen).
So check your angsty ’90s expectations at the door, and introduce your Gen Zer to the Craft saga. If this version means as much to them as the original meant to us, it’s done its job.
The Craft: Legacy is available on Blu-ray and DVD. Extras are limited to two trailer-esque promos and deleted/extended scenes introduced by the director.