The compassionate side of witchery

My latest double feature viewing experience included two very different films that both, however, focus on the human experience with horror as the backdrop. Let’s get into The Craft: Legacy and His House.

THE CRAFT: LEGACY (2020)

 

Naturally, a new movie following in the shadows of a fan favorite’s title doesn’t stand a chance of being judged on its own merits. It’s safe to assume The Craft: Legacy will get nothing but hate for not being whatever it is fans of The Craft want…because a reboot/sequel/remake/reimagining that would work for them will simply never exist. Of course, what they want could also be nothing at all, but that has never stopped movie studios before.

To me, The Craft: Legacy is like the most recent Black Christmas movie in that it makes the smart move of not trying to be a complete rehash of its predecessor. Instead, This film is a sequel (very vaguely clarified as such eventually) that speaks directly to a young, contemporary audience that will most likely totally relate to its teen protagonists. It’s a culturally aware commentary on teens of today, as it should be….just as the original was back in 1996.

This isn’t a dark and cynical supernatural film like the first. The exploration of the characters is not about how their hunger for power pushes them to dark places, it’s about how their innocence leaves them vulnerable to losing control of power that is indeed bigger than them, and I find it to be a fresh approach. These are not resentful, jaded goth girls with a vendetta against all their hateful classmates. These four witches aren’t exactly embraced by their classmates, but they aren’t severely damaged as a result of any snubbing. They have their own damn clique and enjoy the hell out of it. They are young, curious, innocent girls who are absolutely giddy at the fact that they even have powers to begin with.

In a fairly odd setup, the main girl travels with her mother in their car (complete with a nod to the 90s as they belt out some Alanis Morissette) to the home of her mom’s boyfriend, played by the always hot David Duchovny. It’s unclear why the main girl seems to know little about the man her mother is dating and is just meeting his three sons, who she’s now going to live with, for the first time.

It’s not long before three fun girls (like Cyndi Lauper level fun girls who would probably be way popular in school) are pinpointing her as the fourth they need to ignite the abilities of their coven. These four are much more determined to respect the art of magic, even if they do give into the temptation to do some voodoo on the school asshole to make him a little less of a douche.

And that is where the major difference comes in. This film delves more into how the girls begin to realize the effect the consequences of their witchy games can have on others…and that people are more than just what they portray on the outside.

Though understated compared to the new Black Christmas, the themes of “woke” culture will most assuredly hit a nerve with the proudly insensitive crowd with a self-proclaimed strong backbone. Seriously, they lose their shit over social commentary in modern horror movies as if it hasn’t always been there, so the exploration of bisexual issues and female empowerment here should make them revolt.

I imagine the big disappointment for most fans of the original is the fact that this takes an empathetic approach to its witches. It’s not a slowly spiraling journey to darkness; the girls prove to be much more of the white witch variety. I’m reminded of the reboot of Charmed rather than the original The Craft, for the girls are forced to rise to the occasion when an outside threat that was bubbling under the surface suddenly rises to the top and leads to a somewhat underwhelming and almost goofy finale.

HIS HOUSE (2020)

Because I’m mostly a pop horror film fan (fun and fast with cheap frights), the heavy-handed and complex story presented in His House would draw me in more as a novel. However, although I was challenged by my finicky attention span the whole time, this slow burn is a compelling story that tackles an important topic while veiling it with a supernatural tale.

While escaping an African war zone, a man and wife lose their daughter on their way to England. Indeed, this film sheds light on the horrors that refugees face. And since this is not about Mexicans escaping to the U.S., it may just be a little more digestible for the hypersensitive American segment of horror fans that fear the monster known as social awareness…or as they like to call it, the liberal agenda.

In order to stay in the county, the couple must follow strict rules, like not looking for employment and remaining in the housing they are given.

It’s a dive. It’s also haunted.

One of the major conflicts between the man and wife is their differing concepts of home. The man insists they assimilate to life in England, the wife fights it. He is determined to stay and fight for control of a house of his own, while she wants to leave because she believes they are being terrorized by a vengeful witch.

Question is, why? And that’s what kept me watching. The scares aren’t exactly haunting enough for my numbed senses, and they’re also too in the characters’ heads rather than tangible (visions, nightmares, etc.), which never works for me, but the witch thingy is definitely creepy.

Most importantly, the reveal of why the couple is in this predicament is quite tragic and another eye-opening look at what human instinct will push a person to do in order to survive the harshest realities.

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES. I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at www.facebook.com/BoysBearsandScares.
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