“The Craft” Film: A Wiccan Witch Thinks Back on the Original, and Looks Forward to the Remake
The Craft 1996
The Movie "The Craft"
The Craft is arguably one of the most popular witchy movies of all time—especially among actual Wiccans and Witches. I remember back in 1996 when I first heard it was coming out. Come, take a walk with me down memory lane, to 1996…
I was at a movie theater with friends on the second floor of a big theater. We turned to go down the stairs. There in front us was a giant poster (I’m sure it was probably normal size, but I somehow remember it being about a story high). The poster featured four gothy teen girls walking through a lightening storm looking like they mean business. The caption below the image read ‘Coming Soon: The Craft.’
My friends, also Wiccans, exchanged glances with me. I don’t even remember what we actually went to see that day; I just remember going to a diner afterwards to pick on cheese fries, sip cherry Pepsi and discuss whether this new film was going to be something to celebrate, or whether it would be the bane of our existence.
It turned out to be a little of both, I guess. And now 20 years later, they’re remaking it. Let’s talk about this— I don't drink soda pop anymore, but the cheese fries are on me.
A (Very) Brief History of Modern Witchcraft
Let’s do a very brief history here of Wicca and modern Witchcraft leading up to the mid-90s. The Pagan revival began in the 19th century. England’s repeal of anti-Witchcraft laws in 1954 and Gerald Gardner’s book Witchcraft Today really sparked the flame, but Withcraft was still very much an ‘underground’ thing. Most people didn't really think about Witches... and the image was pretty much what was popular in horror films.
The modern Witchcraft movement made its way to America by the 1970s and flourished in small pockets, but by the late 1970s and through the 1980s, the country was gripped with a “Satanic Ritual Abuse” craze. The media sensationalized, publishers cased in, and it all played into the image of the evil devil-worshiping Witches.
The vast majority of these claims have been debunked, and the FBI chalks the entire thing up to mass hysteria, and it certainly didn't help Pagans/Witches gain acceptance. But it is an interesting lesson in the power of the media.
Not a Very Flattering Public Image In Those Days
"The Craft" 1996 Original Trailer
Witchcraft by the 90's
By the 90s, things began changing. I don’t know, the Age of Aquarius finally began taking hold I guess. All of a sudden, you could find the occasional book on Wicca or deck of tarot cards in mainstream book stores—like Scott Cunningham’s Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner or Silver RavenWolf’s To Ride a Silver Broomstick. The few Pagan shops that had been around for years and only known to their own small clientele started getting noticed, and new shops were popping up. Pagan groups were forming, and they were even holding public events. Magazines and catalogues became more accessible.
Witches began making headlines again, but this time it was more often in a favorable light. Newspapers wrote articles about Wiccans, real Witchcraft, the Pagan movement, Goddess worship, etc.— they weren’t all entirely factual but they were at least heading in a more positive direction.
The Internet was another contributing factor—Witches and Wiccans once isolated were by the mid-90s able to seek out others. Chat rooms and message boards were being created by the day, and many of us were unaware at just how big the movement had grown because we’d never been in contact with so many others before. People kept stumbling in to see what the heck we were all about, or try to save our souls. There could still be negative reactions, but there was also a lot more open-mindedness, curiosity and tolerance.
And then “The Craft” came out.
What;s Your Opinion?
How would you rate the 1996 "The Craft" film?
“The Craft” Storm of 1996
If the concept of Wicca and real modern Witchcraft had been simmering in the media for the last 8 years or so, the movie The Craft brought it to a furious boil. I mean, I had never heard the name of my religion mentioned so much outside of select circles. It was kind of shocking.
Talk about breaking the internet-- those early chat rooms were standing room only. They were full every night! Everyone seemed to be talking about Wicca. As the millennium came to a close, unless you'd been living in a cave or on an Amish farm or something, you knew Wicca and the modern Witchcraft movement was in swing.
The Craft was one of the first fictional movie to claim authenticity in line with the modern Witchcraft movement. The filmmakers even hired a reputable Witch—Pat Devin, priestess of the Covenant of the Goddess— to consult so that the rituals and spells were more in line real life Wicca and Witchcraft. Everyone wanted to just how real it was.
On the heels of The Craft came Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Charmed and Practical Magic. Witch images got a media makeover in popular entertainment. Before, witches in film were usually found to be the devil-worshiping villains of horror, such as in Rosemary’s Baby. Heck, even in children’s films, like Hocus Pocus, Witches are just evil beings.
Witches were no longer being portrayed as ugly old hags, but as young, modern women. They weren’t one-dimensional characters with only one agenda—to destroy goodness. Witches in entertainment were women we could relate to— women with otherwise normal lives, and normal problems. Magic was not about trying to take over the world with supernatural power, but about personal spiritual empowerment. Witches were no longer seen in the mainstream as the dark enemy waiting to devour your soul; they were a sympathetic, misunderstood subculture with good and bad in it, just like all other groups.
Witchcraft went totally PC.
Can You Feel the Power?
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Wicca and Witchcraft, Post-“The Craft”
A lot of people in their teens or early 20s around the time The Craft came out say that the movie got their attention. It revealed the path to true Paganism, true Witchcraft, and all the beauty and spiritual fulfillment they offered. Perhaps that’s why so many Wiccans or Witches of Generation Y (or Millennials, if you prefer) have a soft spot for the movie; it opened the way for their transition to their true calling in life.
At the same time, it wasn’t all rosy. Those rooted firmly in the Pagan community before the popularity explosion had mixed opinions on The Craft. Some felt the film makers were irresponsible to try and make it seem authentic, to even market it as being authentic with a bona-fide Witch consultant, only to throw in a lot of made-up stuff (including a made-up God) and cheesy special effects. They thought Pat Devin was a sell-out, and that the movie did more harm than good because it linked Witches to a whole new set of stereotypes and misconceptions.
It wasn't particularly pleasant to be associated with such a sophomoric depiction of Witchcraft-- people took The Craft, as well as all the teen band-wagon jumpers, to be the poster children for real Witches. Many fairly well educated and intelligent adults pursuing what they consider a serious spiritual path just didn't relish the concept of people likening them to black make-up wearing, egocentric, self-absorbed children.
Others loved it—they loved seeing something resembling realism in Witchcraft films, even if only slightly. They figured that it was entertainment, so a certain level of fantasy was acceptable. The movie was opening the way for tolerance. It got people thinking differently about Witches, and was helping to change minds. It brought about a boost of new and more accessible Witchcraft stores, publications, websites, tools and groups.
There were many who walked the middle road (and this is where I fell)—the movie was okay and did help make Witchcraft more acceptable; however you couldn't help cringe at the thousands of teenyboppers bombarded them with questions like, “Am I a natural Witch?” or, “What is the real eye-changing color spell?”
The Gothic Image, Though-- Been Hard to Shake That
Are you planning to see "The Craft" remake?
Anticipating the Remake of "The Craft"
I have to wonder what the future holds. The new film is going to be directed and co-written by up-and coming horror filmmaker Leigh Janiak. She was praised for her breakthrough film, Honeymoon. Original producer Doug Wick is back, but with a new partner: Lucy Fisher.
The angle Sony says the film will focus on is female empowerment. It’s exciting that a young, modern female director, an experienced female producer and four young actresses are teaming up for the project. A film about female empowerment, by actual -- you know -- females. Cool concept.
The movie will for sure have a built-in following—all those who made original film the cult classic that it is will no doubt devour it. It might be good-- there are some really successful remakes, but then you have the flaming turds of shame that should have gotten stuck somewhere in development hell (I’m looking at you, The Wicker Man 2006 remake).
Fairuza Balk’s point black shoes are going to be really hard to fill (though wouldn’t it be awesome if Nancy made a cameo?). So I’m going to wait for it with cautious optimism.
I have to wonder if it is going to have the social impact that it originally did—will a new generation of Pagan path walkers be inspired to find their way through the remake of The Craft? Perhaps after Harry Potter, The Witches of East End, Salem, Maleficent, etc., etc., our society is all witched out. Perhaps Witches are so mainstream now, that they’re too mainstream to generate any real excitement the way they did in '96. Time will tell.
My fondness for the original “The Craft” has rather grown now that 13 year olds have stopped asking me how to levitate. I know I will be waiting in line, ticket in hand, anxious to see what happens... will you?
Remmake is 'More of a Sequel'
August 2016-- I found there's been an update by filmmakers about the new movie. They say The Craft is set to be 'more of a sequel' than a remake. It takes place with new girls 20 years later, and there will be some throwbacks to previous characters and events in the movie.
Some fans speculate the sequel will feature the daughter of one or more main characters.