On the level of pure entertainment, 'The Craft' casts a fairly bewitching spell. Beyond that, this flick about four teen witches offers little depth and is almost as shallow as its characters. Still, the movie offers decent popcorn entertainment with its blend of teenage angst and witchcraft, taking a more honest approach (or at least as honest as Hollywood will allow) to the practice of the Pagan nature religion. But as with any film attached to a big-name studio, the use of magic and the occult must inevitably involve a battle of good vs. evil and contain at least some elements of horror, which is where the film falls by the wayside.
Sarah (Robin Tunney) is the new kid at her San Francisco school. Her mother died when she was younger and at one point she herself attempted suicide. Although warned by the school jock Chris (Skeet Ulrich) to stay clear of a trio of social pariahs Bonnie (Neve Campbell), Nancy (Fairuza Balk) and Rochelle (Rachel True), the boy happens to be the reason she ventually joins the rumored witches and completes the four corners of a coven. As their powers for casting spells grow, the girls decide it's high time to wreak some wanton payback on their tormentors and amend the abuse in their lives. Soon, Sarah learns that what goes around comes around and decides to leave the coven, causing an all-out witch brawl.
Centering on a group of four teenage outcasts who pursue witchcraft for personal gain, the plot focuses a great deal of attention on each girl's troubled backstory to better understand her interest in the magical arts known as Wicca. This is the movie's strongest feature, as it's interesting to watch the girls confront their problems in search of an easy fix. Unfortunately, the narrative eventually spirals out of control in the world of stereotypes and conventional plot devices. Then again, the movie is clearly billed as a horror thriller, so actions which defy all logic but are accompanied by the customary use of lightning and thunder are prerequisites when involving witchcraft.
Despite taking several liberties with its subject matter, however, 'The Craft' depicts an accurate and more positive image of Wicca and its practices than any other film before it. Director Andrew Fleming sought expert guidance from a member of the Covenant of the Goddess (a national Wiccan organization), and as it turns out, Fairuza Balk, a well-known practitioner, also offered some opinions. But as it all comes to a close, the pic chucks all relevant information out the window in favor of more straightforward horror action, full of CGI-magic instead of "magick."
As easy as it would be to quickly dismiss the movie as being made with the MTV-generation clearly in mind, 'The Craft' continues to stand out amongst 90s teen horrors films for maintaining at least some semblance of originality, as well as for Fleming's snappy style. With an excellently haunting and beautifully ethereal musical score by Graeme Revell, this tale of kids experimenting with witchcraft actually delivers exactly what it promises: the darker side of 'Clueless', or better yet, 'Mean Girls.' Performances by the young ladies, which were all out of high school long before filming this, are also nicely done, especially Balk as the slowly maddening Nancy.
While 'The Craft' have its share of flaws,it was never meant to be something audiences talked about long afterwards, and as such, it has held up surprisingly well, and remains the perfect movie to sit back and enjoy on a stormy Halloween night.
On DVD, 'The Craft' never made much of an impression. Making its Blu-ray debut, this 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer (1.85:1) of the teen thriller shows only a slight improvement from its standard definition cousin. Fine objects details are the picture's weakest area, looking much softer than anything we've come to expect from a catalog title. There is a lack of clear distinction in background information, and flesh tones waver between natural and sickly pale. Contrast is also rather inconsistent and mostly bland, though whites tend to come off too hot in some areas, mainly scenes involving flashes of thunder. Shadows appear murky in low-lit scenes, and interiors tend to highlight film grain. Not everything is a complete disaster, as blacks appear accurate and the color palette is bright, especially reds and greens.
In the end, however, the pluses are outweighed by the minuses in this slightly-above-average high-def image, leaving much to be desired. Fans can only hope that in the future, the flick will receive a proper remaster.
For the audio, Sony does right by the movie, crafting a well-designed lossless DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack that is more impressive than the video.
Ignoring the obligatory use of ADR, dialogue and character interactions are well centered in the screen and clear throughout. The mix spreads nicely into the other two channels, creating a wide soundscape with decent imaging. Movement in the soundstage is also convincing, and Graeme Revell's original score enjoys an engaging delivery. While the mid-range is adequately balanced and even, the highs tend to distort and clip at the higher frequencies. Low bass is surprisingly strong and adds some depth, though it's nothing truly refined or polished. Atmospheric effects are put to good use, enhancing the soundfield in several scenes, particularly those involving the sounds of thunder and lightning. Overall, the track is quite active and an improvement over its lossy counterpart.
Sony Home Entertainment brews a fairly nice mix of supplemental material, though it mirrors the same stuff found on the special edition release. Not surprisingly, the features are all presented in standard definition.
While not exactly at the top of the list for many horror fans, 'The Craft' delivers simple and amusing entertainment with its tale of teenage angst and witchcraft. This Blu-ray edition of the teen flick arrives with a slightly above average picture quality and a much better audio presentation. Supplements are the same ones found on the special edition DVD, except for the BD-Live functionality. In the end, fans will be more forgiving than those experiencing the movie for the first time.