The film is attractively put together. It is photographed with a sumptuous colour palette. The teen cast all give decent performances. Particularly good is Fairuza Balk as the cynical teen Goth it is hard to believe that she is the same kid who ten years before this played Dorothy in Disneys Return to Oz (1985). The first half of the film contains a sharply observant depiction of teens and school life Skeet Ulrich gives an finely attuned performance as the guy who trashes Robin Tunneys reputation around the school after she turns his advances down; or the snobbish bitchery of Christine Taylor; and Fairuza Balks burned-out cynicism. The introduction of the magic starts well there is one amusing scene where the witches sit down to get inspiration by watching tvs Bewitched (1964-72).
Unfortunately, The Craft comes apart in its latter half. Despite a promising start, the story falls into a predictable arc. While the film starts with scenes of the characters delighting in the use of powers, the plot quickly falls into the hoary cliche that supernatural empowerment will inevitably turn against its user. Here the films feels the need to create a villain and end everything on a spectacular climax, something that bends the story completely out of shape. Fairuza Balk starts out as the most interesting character in the film. By the end of the film, flying about, transforming herself into Robin Tunney to get a guy, trying to drive Tunney over the edge into suicide and so on, hercharacter has become a cartoon villain. (Indeed, decked out in black makeup and with her toothsome overbite, Fairuza Balk even looks like a cartoon character). The film never justifies itself in psychologically credible terms why Fairuza Balk would go from a cynical Goth to a power-crazed killer. For reasons that are never explained, the other two girls fall in behind her she has the nominal explanation of having Summoned the Spirit, but they come with no such explanation.
We fail to end up with the same characters that the film starts out with and the only reason for this is the films contorting itself out of shape for the sake of a big effects climax and to create a villainess. The Craft feels like a film that ended up being trapped without a second act, which it then tried to resolve by resorting to a cliche ending. Similarly annoying is the epilogue where Neve Campbell and Rachel True visit Robin Tunney, tentatively inquiring about maybe getting together in a circle again whereupon Tunney causes a storm cloud to appear and lightning to blast a tree branch. Throughout, the story has seemed to be trying to make some moral point about misusage of powers but the end fade out on the lightning bolt and Tunneys cold stare makes one wonder if right really has won or it is just one form of bitchery having triumphed over another.
The same basic formula subsequently inspires the inexplicably popular teen witch fantasy Charmed (1998-2006).
Director Andrew Fleming had previously made the A Nightmare on Elm Street-influenced horror film Bad Dreams (1988) and then went onto make the excellent Threesome (1994), the not-very-funny Watergate comedy Dick (1999), to revive the popular girl detective in Nancy Drew (2007) and the comedy Hamlet 2 (2008). Co-writer Peter Filardi had previously written the afterlife film Flatliners (1990) and later wrote the tv remake of Salems Lot (2004), as well as directed Ricky 6 (2000) about true-life Satanists.