So, in case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been trying to stick to a Halloween-ish theme with this month’s movies: we’ve had teenage serial killers, an evil automobile, vampires, and now witches. I hope you’ve enjoyed the themed posts, because they’re going to continue through the holidays. I promise, though, not to be too obvious in my choices. In fact I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the Thanksgiving-themed films I’ve chosen for November. But enough about the future — let’s talk about this post.
Now, I didn’t originally set out to bookend October’s posts with mid-’90s Neve Campbell/Skeet Ulrich movies, but that’s how it turned out — I watched The Craft (1996) on cable a few weeks ago and just thought it’d be fun to write about.
The first time I saw this movie was with my dad. Yeah, you read that correctly. He really likes The Craft, which kind of surprised me at first, but this is the man who told me, after reading my post on Adventures in Babysitting, that Elisabeth Shue is one of his “ultimate hotties.” So nothing he tells me should surprise me. (Love you, Dad.)
The Craft is about Sarah (Robin Tunney), a troubled teenager with a difficult past — her mother died in childbirth — and a history of hallucinations and suicide attempts. She moves from San Francisco to Los Angeles with her father and stepmother to start a new life, and on her first day at her new Catholic school, she meets three strange girls — Nancy (Fairuza Balk, who stars in another of my favorite witch movies, 1986’s The Worst Witch), Bonnie (Campbell), and Rochelle (Rachel True) — who are rumored to be witches. They’re rude to Sarah at first, but when they notice she might have the powers of a natural witch they decide she’s “the fourth,” i.e. the witch who can complete their circle, and they befriend her.
After Sarah joins the coven and contributes her individual powers, the other girls realize they can cast spells they never could before. They decide to fix everything that’s wrong with their lives: Sarah grabs the attention of a boy she likes who previously didn’t like her, Rochelle teaches a lesson to the racist snob who always picks on her, Bonnie gets rid of the terrible burn scars that cover her back, and Nancy takes her mother away from her drunken stepfather and the trailer they live in.
As the girls see their spells working, they become more confident in their powers and decide to “invoke the spirit.” They succeed, but then things go awry: Nancy, Rochelle, and Bonnie become more reckless and start using their powers for darker purposes, including tormenting Sarah, who doesn’t agree with how they’ve been behaving and wants to put a stop to it. After a few people die — and the other three realize Sarah wants to leave their circle — Nancy takes it upon herself to take care of “the fourth” once and for all.
The Craft is by no means cinematic genius, but it is quite enjoyable, and was a hit when it came out in May of ’96, opening at number one at the box office and making almost $7 million its first weekend. Though its stars had already established themselves in other film and television roles, The Craft is seen by many as their breakout hit.
It also kicked off a minor witch trend in TV and film in the late ’90s, with shows like Charmed (1998-2006), starring Alyssa Milano, Holly Marie Combs, and Shannen Doherty (who was replaced by Rose McGowan after three seasons) as a trio of sister witches, and Sabrina the Teenage Witch (1996-2003), a kid-friendly ABC sitcom (its last three seasons aired on the WB) with Melissa Joan Hart as, well, a teenage witch named Sabrina. There was also the 1998 film Practical Magic, in which Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock played witch sisters (it debuted in theaters nine days after Charmed premiered on the WB). Of course, that trend has all but died out — unless you count the Harry Potter phenomenon — and been replaced with vampires, vampires, and more vampires.
I really enjoy The Craft‘s soundtrack, in all its mid-’90s glory. The official soundtrack album isn’t really out of print, so I’m breaking my own rules by writing about it, but this is my column — I can break them if I want. And since the official release is incomplete, I figured I’d give you the whole thing plus the missing tracks, which include Siouxsie & the Banshees’ “Sick Child,” Portishead’s “Scorn” (a remix of “Glory Box,” from their Glory Times singles compilation), and Connie Francis’s “Fallin’.”
The most notable track from this soundtrack is probably Love Spit Love’s cover of the Smiths’ “How Soon Is Now?,” which was recorded specifically for the film and released as a single from the album. It then went on to become the theme song of Charmed. In addition to other great covers — Our Lady Peace’s version of the Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows,” Letters to Cleo’s take on the Cars’ “Dangerous Type,” and Juliana Hatfield’s remake of Marianne Faithfull’s “Witches Song” — there are some great original tunes on the soundtrack, including “Dark Secret” by Matthew Sweet, who, between August of ’95 and May of ’96, landed six songs on various soundtrack albums, including Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy, Flipper, and even The Baby-Sitters Club.
Our Lady Peace – Tomorrow Never Knows
Sponge – All This and Nothing
Love Spit Love – How Soon Is Now?
Jewel – Under the Water
Juliana Hatfield – Witches Song
Tripping Daisy – Jump Into the Fire
Letters to Cleo – Dangerous Type
Siouxsie & the Banshees – Sick Child
Connie Francis – Fallin’
Matthew Sweet – Dark Secret
All Too Much – Warning
Portishead – Scorn
Spacehog – The Horror
Elastica – Spastica
Heather Nova – I Have the Touch
Now, this next bit really has nothing to do with The Craft, but I can’t help myself — it’s Halloween! I mentioned earlier that Fairuza Balk stars in The Worst Witch, a fun witch movie for kids from the ’80s. But did you know that it also stars Tim Curry and he does the most amazing musical number, “Anything Can Happen on Halloween”? No? Well, consider this your treat …