Audiences around the world are getting used to waiting a little longer than expected for their most-anticipated films to hit screens. However, the 24-year wait that fans of 1996 cult teen-witch favourite The Craft have endured has been a very long one.
Perhaps appropriately for a film about a high school coven of witches, this latest instalment has been shrouded in a certain degree of mystery. The Craft: Legacy's trailer was only released at the end of last month, and the team behind the film have been somewhat unclear about whether it should be considered a sequel, a reboot, a remake or something else entirely.
Director Zoe Lister-Jones has gone as far as confirming that the characters in the new film are not based on the adolescent goths from the '90s original, and that they live in their own fictional universe. But beyond that and the limited clues from the trailer, we'll have to wait for The Craft: Legacy's release to fill in the gaps.
Although the movie is coming out straight to video-on-demand platforms in many markets, including the US, it landed on big screens in the UAE on Thursday, October 29, just in time for Halloween.
Fans of the original may have to pack away their preconceptions, however. In 1996, when heavy eye make-up and head-to-toe black clothes were American high school semaphore for “I am an outsider”, the film proved inspirational to a generation of isolated teenage girls.
A lot has changed since then, though, not least the existence of webcams, through which the film's star and lead teen-witch Cailee Spaeny (Bad Times at the El Royale) reveals she hadn't even seen the first film before being cast. "This is so embarrassing, but I'd never even heard of The Craft," she says.
“But when I started telling my older friends, women in their thirties mostly, they were very protective of it. They were like, ‘OK Cailee, we’re going to sit you down to watch this film. We need you to know how important it is to us. It changed our whole lives, so don’t mess this up, please.’ I definitely felt that weight. I feel grateful to be a part of this, but I also understand how meaningful it is to the original fan base.”
Spaeny shouldn't feel too embarrassed about her lack of a connection with the original – like her co-star and fellow witch Lovie Simone, she wasn't even born when The Craft first inspired a generation of teenage outsiders. Simone, who stars in the TV series Greenleaf, likewise admits that she hadn't seen the original until she was asked to audition.
Fans can take some solace from the fact that Simone loved the film once she had seen it, and hopes to be similarly inspirational in her role in the new one. "I watched it and fell in love with the girls and the idea of being a witch without having the whole pointy hat and funny nose thing going on," she says. "I'm excited just to tell the story of a teenage witch having fun and living life, not with all that stigma around it."
Simone also has some words of comfort for the die-hard fans who may be worried about what this gang of upstarts will do with their beloved movie. “I’d say to them to continue being protective of the original movie because it’s yours, and that time was yours, and those feelings were yours. This movie is for the girls today, and I’m really pleased this generation can now get to enjoy a part of what you guys had too,” she says.
Unlike her incredibly youthful cast (the classroom coven is completed by Zoey Luna and Gideon Adlon, making up a foursome with an average age of 21), director Lister-Jones is old enough to have seen the original. She too has comforting words for the legions of black-clad teenagers who loved the film: "The Craft was just what we needed in 1996, but we're in a different moment now," she says.
“We need a movie that applies the concept to a different set of distinctive and singular characters. I was such a huge fan of the original that I wanted to serve the title justice – I had to dig deep about what I thought was the most important story to tell today as it relates to young women entering into their powers.”
The theme of women "entering their powers" could hardly be more current in a post-#MeToo and Time's Up world, though Spaeny is keen to credit the 1996 film for playing its part in paving the way for the changes we are seeing in Hollywood today. "It showed teen women's angst in such a raw and visceral way," she says. "It was one of the only movies at that time that showed women coming into their power. I also love seeing in this filming process, and the original, true bonds between young women, so that's what I connected with. I just think The Craft: Legacy is perfect for right now with what women are going through today, and how this is a vessel to bring encouragement that it's OK for women to have power and share their strength and story."
Beyond the social subtext, The Craft: Legacy is ultimately a horror from the genre-leading Blumhouse Productions, home to box office smashes The Purge, Insidious and Halloween. So along with the female empowerment message, viewers can expect plenty of scares, a dash of political commentary and a healthy serving of magic. What's not to like?
The Craft: Legacy is in cinemas from Thursday, October 29