Break out the candles, ceremonial daggers, and surprisingly popular covers of Smiths’ songs—today marks the 20th anniversary of The Craft. The film opened on May 3, 1996 and managed to capture the imaginations of many people throughout the years. Many were drawn to the tale of female outsiders gaining power, overcoming the various social obstacles facing them, and also dealing with copious amounts of snakes and Skeet Ulrich. It may not be a generation defining film, but The Craft certainly has its niche and continues to live on in fandom today, for many reasons (including those outlined here). Proof of its enduring popularity can be found in many different corners of the internet, which has celebrated the tale of teenage witchcraft for many years.
There are more than a few fan-made music videos that use footage from the film and some downtrodden, goth-esque song (like this one or this one, and countless others). But to really dig in to the film, first there’s the excellent “Exploring The Craft” video by Cecil Trachenburg of GoodBadFlicks. This video encapsulates IMDB trivia and anecdotal information gleaned from home videos and other interviews, all presented at a crisp nine minutes. Trachenburg goes over information like Robin Tunney’s wigs (after shaving her head for Empire Records), how certain special-effects shots were accomplished, and the eerily weird occurrences surrounding the “invoking the spirit” scene filmed on the beach. It’s an insightful and pithy video that provides a lot of great information while also explaining why the film was (and continues to be) so popular.
But to gain true appreciation for the film’s impact, beyond just leading to eight seasons of Charmed, the excellent personal essay by Britt Hayes, written for Birth.Movies.Death., looks at how a young Hayes found herself in the tale of awkward outsiders looking to reassert themselves in the social feeding frenzy of high school. The Craft had a huge influence on an impressionable young woman who, in Andrew Fleming’s film about a teenage coven, saw more than just a little reflection of herself and perhaps some inspiration as well. As Hayes writes,
I related to these young women who were bullied by the popular girl in school and jilted by the cute boy, who dealt with insecurities about their appearance and just wanted their parents to leave them alone. I memorized entire scenes. I tried to play Light As a Feather, Stiff As a Board with friends. I got really into candles. I was experimenting with eyeliner. I wanted a plaid skirt. I started to think if I just had the right tools and a couple of good books, I could make things happen. I honestly believed that I was a witch. See, The Craft got me to thinking that maybe all women are witches, but we just don’t know it until we try to tap into our power. Some of us are born with powers, while most of us have to use spells and incantations. I became really dedicated to the witch lifestyle. But I was entering 7th grade and turning 12, and didn’t have easy access to witch stuff. I was also moving to a new town… just like Sarah.
The Craft may be turning 20 years old today, but its themes have echoed through generations. While it’s easy to dismiss Andrew Fleming’s film as a disposable popcorn flick, that would be wrong given how it has endured with legions of fans, most of whom discovered it at a time when they felt like outcasts and pariahs themselves, and longed to have some measure of control over their own lives. With lived in characters struggling to find themselves in a world that seeks to marginalize them, The Craft will undoubtedly continue to speak to people for many more years. Plus, that Smiths’ cover is pretty catchy.