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The Craft (1996)

by on 2011/09/28

“How have you been sleeping?”

* * *

According to a statistic I found on the bullying prevention group PREVNet website, kids are bullied  every 7.5 minutes on the playgrounds of Canadian schools and every 25 minutes in the classroom.

Shocking as that stat may sound to some, it seems about right to me.

I’m not a bit ashamed to admit I was the victim of persistent, systematic bullying in junior high and high school. Growing up on a farm, I wore vintage clothing and rubber boots to school. I read strange books, listened to very strange music, and was painfully, uncomfortably shy – to the point of having trouble with eye contact.

No matter what I did, it got worse. I tried being quiet, disappearing, standing very still. It continued. I tried fighting back, lashing out, mouthing off. It got worse. My locker was looted, my art projects were destroyed, I was pushed to the ground, punched and called names.

It lasted for years. More often than not, it wasn’t just the stereotypical big dumb jock who was doing the bullying – although I had one of those too – I got the worst of it from a group of particularly spiteful girls.

Girls can be particularly devastating when they want to be. More verbally adept, more perceptive, they can hurt more with a single one-liner than several closed-fist punches in the face. In fact, they frequently made me wish for a good solid shove to the ground.

In The Craft, we are introduced to Sarah (Robin Tunney). New to L.A., fresh off the plane from San Francisco, she’s dealing with new house and a new school. First day in a Catholic prep school, no uniform, no friends, she’s spotted by a group of girls who notice she’s not like the other students.

Sarah’s got power. Or rather powers.

Pierced nose, white skin and a big pair of smeared red lips that would make Rock And Roll Hall of Fame nominee Robert Smith tingle with joy, Nancy Downs (Fairuza Balk) is the leader of the she-wolf pack. Nancy is the alpha female, her betas come in the form of mousey, timid  Bonnie (Neve Campbell) and Rochelle (Rachel True).

These weird, witchy girls want Sarah to join them. And there’s no mentality quite like a pack mentality.

We soon discover that when you cross these girls, they do so much more than tease you into an eating disorder.

Directed by Andrew Fleming, The Craft is ostensibly about witchcraft. I read that Fleming and producers went through contortions to bring down the rating from R to PG13 only to be told that the fact that the film was about teenagers doing witchcraft was enough to merit a restricted rating.

To me, The Craft was all about group dynamics and particularly the dangerous dynamics of teenage girls. There was all the things I remembered from high school, the constant battle for dominance, the fragile, tenuous pecking orders, the remorseless teasing and the vicious mindset of a mob.

None of us is as mean as all of us.

Well shot, well directed, well acted, The Craft really holds up and delivers up some flash-back chills. For me. If I had one problem with The Craft, it was the ending. I’ll not spoil anything here but I would have really loved some kind of message for the kids that might is not always necessarily right.

In The Craft, it isn’t the witches that scare me.

* * *

101 minutes

Rated R for witches (apparently), a single f-word, drinking, snakes and supernatural violence

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