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The Craft: Legacy is bringing back that cult-classic magic for a new era
It sure sounds like something Wiccan this way comes in The Craft: Legacy. Written and directed by Zoe Lister-Jones — and courtesy of production company Blumhouse — Legacy serves as a sequel to 1996’s The Craft. Slated to premiere on-demand on Oct. 28, this iteration follows Lily (Cailee Spaeny), a young loner uprooted from her life when her mother remarries. Lily soon finds herself moving to a new town, attending a new school, as well as adjusting to a new stepdad and siblings.
When three aspiring witches — Lourdes (Zoey Luna), Frankie (Gideon Adlon), and Tabby (Lovie Simon) — invite Lily to join their coven, she accepts. However, as their powers increase, the quartet soon discovers the hefty price of messing around with unknown forces. Although it’s been over two decades since The Craft materialized in theaters, Lister-Jones believes this modern installment couldn’t be timelier.
“A story that centers on young people, and young women specifically coming into their power in today’s current climate, is really important to me in terms of giving voice to narratives that have sometimes been marginalized,” Lister-Jones told SYFY WIRE during a visit to the Toronto set of The Craft: Legacy in early December 2019. “And really prioritizing representation and representing young people, and young women, authentically. And showcasing the struggles that young women are up against. And creating a world that really feels current and fresh, while still paying homage to everything that was incredible about the original, which was about centering voices of those people who were considered outsiders. I think that particular story is more important than ever to tell now.”
The original Craft conjured up $55.6 million worldwide at the box office. Since its release, the movie has emerged as a cult classic. However, not all the Legacy actresses were aware of its popularity, or, in some cases, that it even existed. Others fully understand why The Craft became so revered among the horror community.
“This is so embarrassing,” Spaeny says with a smile. “I had never even heard of The Craft before the audition. It’s not my favorite answer to give. When I started telling my friends, they were very protective over it. They were like, ‘Cailee, we need to sit you down. We are going to watch this film. You need to know how important it is to us. It changed our whole lives, so don’t mess this up please.’”
“That movie made me feel so cool because I was always the weirdo,” Adlon explains later on. “I was always the kid that was the outsider. I was bullied. I had a hard time in school. When I got to middle school and seventh grade, I found my clique. That was kind of like my coven. I think that movie gives space for teenagers to be... I don’t even think those girls are weird. They are unique. They are artistic. They are one with the universe. They have a better understanding of themselves than others, than probably any other teenagers would. It just made me feel good.”
While SYFY WIRE was on set, production had transformed a soundstage into Tabby’s home. We watched a sequence in which the four girls were messing around with magic and attempting to cast a spell. Sitting around a table with dimly lit candles, they began to chant.
Suddenly, a loud noise startled them. The girls scrambled to their feet and rushed out of the room. As it turns out, that small scene required multiple takes just to nail the dialogue and tone. And then there are the rules of magic.
“On top of learning your lines, you have to think about, ‘You can’t leave a circle until you have closed it,’” Adlon notes. "'You have to open the day with a blessing. You have to close the day with a blessing.’ We are trying to do it respectively and right. So, magic doesn’t know you are acting. Then, it’s all about the beats. Chanting has beats. You have to set your intention with every single word.”
The original Craft was groundbreaking in many ways. The movie dealt with issues surrounding race, class, self-injury, adolescent troubles, and, of course, female empowerment. Legacy will follow in those footsteps by tackling its share of big concepts. Most notably, the narrative introduces Lourdes as a trans witch. That representation truly hit home with Luna, who is a transgender actress.
“It was really important for me to be in this movie,” Luna says. “Obviously, I am trans and there’s not that many trans people, who are in film, that aren’t just [playing] a sex worker who gets killed at the end. It was important for me because I am doing this for the kids. I am doing this for the little girls that grew up and didn’t have someone to look up to.
“I don’t want to make this whole interview about me being a girl with a penis,” she continues. “But I would like to say that is an important factor. There isn’t a lot of children that have inspiration to look up to. And my character... she’s f*****g fabulous and I think she is opening up a lot of doors.”
The coven experiments with magic. The four friends evoke spirits. They levitate. And, they hex poor Timmy. But rather than rely on fiction and Hollywood fare for research on witchcraft, Lister-Jones enlisted practicing witches as consultants. Pam Grossman, who hosts the podcast The Witch Wave and recently penned a book titled Walking the Witch, provided invaluable insight throughout the screenwriting process.
“I really wanted to make sure I was getting everything right, and for witchcraft practitioners who were watching the film not to say, ‘Well, that doesn’t feel authentic to my experience or to my practice,’” Lister-Jones explains. “Pam has been incredibly helpful. Then, I’ve been working with Bri Luna, who is more commonly known as the Hoodwitch. She comes from more of the Brujeria and hoodoo, voodoo traditions in her lineage.”
Spaeny, a 23-year-old Missouri native, is best known for such film and television roles as Devs, Bad Times at the El Royale, and Pacific Rim: Uprising. Legacy marks her first opportunity at being No. 1 on the call sheet. However, those leading roles can be exhausting. Indeed, Spaeny calls Legacy “the hardest project I’ve ever done.”
“I’ve never led something before like this,” she says. “I’m learning along the way. People are watching me and are like, ‘You are learning how to be No. 1 right now. We are watching you learn.’ Each week, every Friday when we wrap, I look at Zoe and am like, ‘I don’t know how we got through this week, but we did it.’ On the acting side of it, it has been a balance of trying to not emotionally drain myself so I can have something to give on set but staying open every day.
“This whole process has opened my eyes to witchcraft in general,” she adds later. “A lot of people who are close to me, a lot of older people, were really scared for me to do this project. I’m from Missouri, so it’s a little tricky. I got a lot of messages, and a little bit of hate, for doing this film, actually, that I was promoting witchcraft.
“It’s just so funny that there’s still such a stigma to it and that it has to be evil,” she says. “In reality, when you look back, the history of witchcraft is that it’s all about women coming into their power and how that scared a lot of people and shook a lot of things up. It’s so perfect for right now, with what women are going through today and how this is a vessel to bring encouragement and power and that it’s OK for women to have power and share their strength and story.”
Legacy may deal with important modern issues and deep emotions, but ultimately the main characters are inexperienced teenage witches. They aren’t always angels. And, eventually, they turn on each other. So, when all hell breaks loose, how frightening is this film?
“It’s witchy, in the best possible way,” Lister-Jones concludes. “I think there are definitely horror elements to it. I don’t know how to answer that so specifically, except to say audiences will be scared. Get ready.”