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Film / The Craft

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A 1996 teen horror film, directed by Andrew Fleming and starring Fairuza Balk, Neve Campbell, Rachel True, and Robin Tunney, about four high-school outcasts who practice witchcraft, and how the use of their powers affects their friendships and relationships.

Sarah Bailey (Tunney), a troubled teenager from San Francisco, moves to Los Angeles with her father and stepmother. Enrolling in a local Catholic school, she inadvertently attracts the attention of three of the school's outcasts: Nancy (Balk), Bonnie (Campbell), and Rochelle (True), who also happen to be witches.

Each of the three suffers from a personal problem of some kind: Nancy lives in a trailer with her mother and abusive stepfather, Rochelle suffers racist harassment by the school's Alpha Bitch, and Bonnie has severe burn scars all over her body.


The four decide to use their powers for personal gain, casting vengeful spells against those that wronged them. However the use of power begins to go to their heads and eventually some of them turn out no better then the people who abused them.

The film is notable for hiring an actual Wiccan as a script consultant and another one to play Nancy. But since Wicca is a pretty mundane religion in real life, most of their suggestions were ignored in the name of Artistic License.

See also The Covenant, which is essentially the same premise but with lead guys instead. Constance M Burge says she was inspired to create Charmed partially off this movie; indeed, Love Spit Love's Cover Version of The Smiths' "How Soon Is Now?", which would become the theme song of Charmed, was recorded for The Craft.


This film contains examples of:

  • Above Good and Evil: The god Mannon is described as such. The girls try to do the same with their magic. It doesn't work.
  • Abusive Parents: Heavily implied with Nancy's step-father.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • Christine Taylor ends up bald due to one of Sarah's spells. She had guest starred in a memorable episode of Friends where she again ends up bald due to another character's meddling.
    • Robin Tunney had previously slit her wrists in Empire Records. She also shaved her head in that film, and while she doesn't go bald here, Rochelle uses her powers to cause Laura's hair to fall out, and Sarah later puts a glamour on Rochelle to make her think that the same is happening to her.
  • Alliterative Name: The popular girl Laura Lizzie.
  • Alpha Bitch: Laura Lizzie antagonises Rochelle and has a Girl Posse to help her out. One could also argue that Nancy turns into this by the end of the movie, especially after she uses her powers to get rich.
  • Animal Motifs: Snakes for Nancy. She brings one to the invocation of the spirit and later conjures up illusions of snakes and other reptiles.
    "The serpent is a very powerful being. You should respect it."
  • The Artifact: During the levitation scene, the girls make jokes about Rochelle being too heavy to lift. This is a remnant from the original concept where Rochelle would be obsessed with her weight.
  • Artistic License: Unlike most films of this ilk, they actually did the research on Wicca before making the film. Since an accurate portrayal of Wicca wouldn't make for a very good horror movie, though, most of it (apart from some flavoring) got thrown out in favor of a Charmed or Buffy-style approachnote . The filmmakers also made up the god the girls worship - specifically to avoid offending actual Wiccans.
  • Asshole Victim: The film deconstructs this, stating that the Threefold Rule means that whatever spell one casts on someone else - they get back times three. Although assholes such as Chris and Laura Lizzie are punished, both their tormentors feel remorse and regret doing it.
  • Ax-Crazy: Nancy, after she gets her powers.
  • Badass Long Coat: Both Nancy and Rochelle sport one on a few occasions.
  • Beautiful All Along: Bonnie's scars get removed, so she gives herself a makeover and starts paying more attention to her appearance. Guys instantly start checking her out.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished:
    • It's no coincidence that Bonnie's burn scars stop just below her face. Sarah does make her hallucinate that the scars cover her face though - and it's not pretty.
    • Averted with Laura. Rochelle causes her hair to fall out as revenge for her racist bullying.
  • Beauty to Beast: It's only for a moment but Sarah is able to make Bonnie hallucinate that her scars have returned, now covering her face too, and that Rochelle's hair has fallen out.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Rochelle and Sarah experience this with their use of magic. Sarah wishes for Chris to like her and initially enjoys it when he becomes her slave. Then he ends up trying to rape her. Likewise Rochelle wishes for revenge on the school bully but then feels sorry for her when the revenge goes too far.
  • Beta Bitch: Laura has one to giggle at her taunts to Rochelle. Also, a male example with Trey, who seems to be one to Jerk Jock Chris.
  • Bitch Alert:
    • Inverted. Laura Lizzie's character introduction is leaving a night with Chris and his friends, saying "nice meeting you Sarah" with a sincere smile. However we see her true character at the swim practice.
    • It is however a straight example for Nancy. When Sarah meets her and the girls, she asks to be their lab partners. Nancy says nothing and just glares at her.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Laura Lizzie (blonde) has a Girl Posse made up of a brunette and a redhead.
  • Break the Cutie: Nancy, Bonnie and Rochelle decide to do this to get rid of Sarah. Sarah turns it around and it becomes the cutie breaks you in the end.
  • Brought Down to Normal: In the end, Bonnie and Rochelle lose their power. Word of God is that they were just leeching off Sarah's magic.
  • But Not Too Black: Present in Rochelle's plot, where Laura compares her hair (which she doesn't straighten and wears curly) to pubic hair.
  • Butterfly of Transformation: A flock of butterflies appear after the girls have their first meeting as a foursome. They call it a sign from Manon.
  • Catholic School Girls Rule: The school the girls go to is a Catholic one, getting the girls into the uniform.
  • Cerebus Retcon: Both Sarah and Rochelle's respective revenges on Chris and Laura Lizzie are played for laughs at first - see a funny scene where Sarah makes Chris carry her and Bonnie's books - but then become more dramatic in the third act. Laura Lizzie goes completely bald and has a breakdown, which even disturbs Rochelle, and later seems to be much more civil towards her, while Chris ends up trying to rape Sarah.
  • Clique Tour: When Sarah arrives at school she walks around the schoolyard, where she is warned against hanging out with the three magical outcasts. Sarah ignores this warning and ends up getting involved with them.
  • Clueless Aesop: The film attempts to deal with the subject of racism via Rochelle's character, but it ultimately comes across as rather clumsily written, as the film doesn't really dedicate enough screentime to Rochelle to handle the subject in a nuanced manner – the most it really gets it Laura Lizzie making a few offhand, racist comments towards Rochelle, while the rest of her bullying just comes across as more generalised nastiness. Originally, Rochelle was envisioned as being just another misfit (early scripts threw around the idea of her having an eating disorder and uptight parents), with the racism element only being added after Rachel True was cast...and it kinda shows. While the film doesn't botch the overall message of 'racism is bad' too horribly, it could've been woven into the plot with more finesse.
  • Cold Open: The film opens with Nancy, Bonnie and Rochelle performing some kind of ritual, before the opening credits play.
  • Corrupt the Cutie: In the process of magic, Bonnie turns from sweet caring girl into vain and narcissistic...well...witch.
  • Darkened Building Shootout: The showdown between Nancy and Sarah in the latter's house.
  • Date Rape Averted: A love spell gone wrong make Chris so obsessed with Sarah that he eventually tries to rape her by the side of the road when she rejects his advances again when he goes on a date with her. She knees him in the groin, and runs away.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Chris' death is caused by him rejecting Nancy and claiming she's jealous.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male:
    • Averted. Nancy uses a Glamour to make Chris think she is Sarah and prepares to fool around with him on the bed. When she is discovered, Chris is disgusted and it's presented as something very wrong.
    • Another aversion could be Sarah's spell on Chris. Technically Sarah is the rapist in this situation, casting a love spell that causes him to obsess over her. And her spell turns him into a would-be rapist. Nearly getting raped is treated as Laser-Guided Karma for casting the spell in the first place.
  • Driven to Suicide: Sarah attempted suicide in the past. Bonnie's comments on Sarah's scarred wrists "you even did it the right way" indicate she may have at least considered it. Combined with the events of the film, this makes Nancy's plan to kill Sarah and make it look like suicide pretty plausible.
  • Dye Hard: In-universe example. Laura Lizzie is apparently not a natural blonde.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: All of the girls (except Rochelle obviously), but Nancy the most. Sarah downplays it (until the end).
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas:
    • Nancy seems to have some love for her mother. She uses her powers on her stepfather when he strikes her.
    • A minor example with Chris, who states that his mother (and a puppy he had as a kid) is the only person he ever truly cared about.
  • Evil Wears Black: Nancy wears more black than the others, and her wearing a long black dress and black lipstick marks the start of her Face–Heel Turn.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Nancy going crazy with power is symbolised by her hair being worn loose and wilder.
  • Fallen Princess: The Alpha Bitch Laura-Lizzie after her hair has fallen out and she has to wear a wig.
  • Feminist Fantasy: The film revolves around four misfit teenage girls who practice witchcraft as a way of empowering themselves, with their sisterly bond as a coven helping them overcome adversity in the form of bullying, slut-shaming and other issues. The girls' use of magic and pursuit of knowledge and power is not depicted as being negative in and of itself; it's only when they start abusing their powers and using them to harm people (or each other) that things go south. In the climax, the main protagonist Sarah seeks help and guidance from a wise mother figure, who encourages her to embrace her full potential as a witch in order to stand up for herself and gain better self-esteem and confidence.
  • Flat Character: Bonnie and Rochelle have no characterization outside of their "freak" status. A deleted scene states that Rochelle is the only black girl in the neighborhood and was shunned for this reason. Bonnie likewise takes an entirely background role once her scars vanish.
  • Four-Element Ensemble: According to the director's commentary, Sarah is Earth, Nancy is Fire, Rochelle is Water and Bonnie is Air.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Sarah is melancholic, Nancy is choleric, Rochelle is phlegmatic and Bonnie is sanguine.
  • Four-Girl Ensemble: Sarah, the wise one; Nancy, the Deadpan Snarker Goth who doesn't care what other people think of her; Bonnie, who becomes increasingly image-obsessed and vain; and Rochelle, the sweet, quiet one (and Token Minority) who just wants the Alpha Bitch to stop her racist taunts.
  • Glamour: Using magic to change your appearance is just so much simpler than going to a salon.
  • Goth: Nancy. The lone psycho variety.
  • Goth Girls Know Magic: Teenage rebellion and Goth style leads to magical terrorism. Of course Nancy is the only real Goth in the group. According to the filmmakers, this was a Cultural Translation from medieval times - where magic would be the weapons of the underclass. So in a modern setting, the outcasts would be the ones resorting to witchcraft.
  • Hate Sink: Chris Hooker is an arrogant and misogynistic student despite seemingly befriending Sarah. After wooing her on an innocent date, Chris begins to spread rumors about Sarah putting out to brag about "scoring" with her and getting Sarah shammed. It's evident that he did the same to Nancy, and is implied to have even given her an STD. It's also implied he does the same with other girls in his school. As punishment, Chris is subjected to a spell that turns him a lovesick lapdog for Sarah, but it ultimately backfires when he becomes an obsessed stalker and ultimately tries to rape her.
  • I Just Want to Be Beautiful: Bonnie wishes for her burn scars to be removed.
  • Jerk Jock: Chris. Interestingly enough Alpha Bitch Laura Lizzie is a female example. She and her Beta Bitch are on the swim team with Rochelle.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: Nancy's finally catches up with her when she ends up powerless, insane and confined to a mental hospital.
  • Lady Drunk: Nancy's mother is never seen without a glass of liquor.
  • Light Feminine and Dark Feminine: Two sets. Sarah and Rochelle are the Light Feminine (both using their powers on others) while Nancy and Bonnie are the Dark Feminine (using their powers on themselves).
  • Letting Her Hair Down: Inverted with Bonnie. Pre-makeover she wears it down and loose. After her scars are gone, she wears it in various styles.
  • Looks Like Cesare: Nancy, towards the end of the movie.
  • Love Potion: Sarah puts Chris under a love spell after he pretended to be interested in her, but turned out to just be an asshole instead. It works fine at first, until Chris becomes so enamoured with Sarah that he starts stalking her, culminating in a date rape attempt. Nancy then kills him in retaliation.
  • The Mentor: Lirio seems as if she will be this Sarah, but Sarah flees when Nancy attacks. She does give her advice on what to do to stop Nancy in the end, though.
  • Mind Rape: What Nancy tries to do to Sarah.
  • The Mirror Shows Your True Self:
    • A non-shapeshifting variant; when Rochelle discovers Laura having a breakdown in the shower after going bald due to a curse Rochelle put on her, there's a subtle moment where Rochelle glances at the mirror and her reflection looks the other way, implying she feels guilt and shame for her actions.
    • In the climax, Sarah uses a spell on Bonnie and Rochelle to "make them see"; when they pass a mirror, their reflections show Rochelle's hair falling out and Bonnie's face covered in burn scars, deeply frightening them as they believe it's Laser-Guided Karma.
  • Missing Mom: Sarah's mother (who was also a witch) died when she was a baby, which leads her to try to find out more about her. She has a stepmother called Jenny but she's barely featured in the film.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Bonnie and Rochelle bail on Nancy after she threatens to slit the latter's throat if they don't follow her orders.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Sarah has this after Chris's death where she realises the whole mess is her fault.
    • Implied that Rochelle suffers a similar moment when she sees Laura Lizzie in tears with her hair falling out in handfuls.
  • Naïve Newcomer: Sarah, both to the school and to magic.
  • Narcissist: Bonnie, after her scars vanish.
  • Never My Fault:
    • When Bonnie and Rochelle come to "apologise" for tormenting Sarah, they just blame everything on Nancy, claiming they "never meant it to go that far" and that making her think her father and stepmother were dead was "just a practical joke." They don't take any responsibility for their actions, only shift blame, and when Sarah doesn't buy it they just turn scornful.
    • Earlier, Nancy blames Sarah for Chris' death. Granted, the whole chain of events wouldn't have taken place if Sarah hadn't cast a spell on him, but Nancy pushed him out of a window!
  • Nice, Mean, and In-Between: The three witches. Rochelle is easily the nicest, and most sympathetic as a bully victim. Nancy is mean, as she's the chief antagonist. Bonnie is in-between, as she starts out nice but becomes as bitchy as Nancy.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Neve Campbell's Canadian accent comes out when she says "sorry" in the car.
  • Papa Wolf: The little we see of Sarah's father shows he's very protective of his daughter.
  • Parental Substitute: Sarah receives advice from Lirio, the owner of the magic shop.
  • Perky Goth: Nancy, whenever she's in a good mood anyway.
  • Plot Hole: Bonnie wears baggy clothes to hide her scars. After she first starts treatment for them she is suddenly wearing less clothes but then in another scene the scars are back and when they finally disappear Bonnie walks into class wearing the same type of clothes she'd been wearing before and everyone is suddenly reacting to that. Notably during the levitation scene, she's wearing short sleeves and no scars are visible. It could be argued that her newfound confidence is what they're reacting to, but still.
  • Power Floats: In the climax, Nancy, Bonnie and Rochelle float in mid-air to demonstrate their power over Sarah.
  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: Sarah to Nancy
    "Oh, and he (Mannon) wanted me to give you a message: You're in deep shit."
  • Precision F-Strike: Sarah drops the film's sole F-bomb, when Chris initially rejects her and speads rumors about her.
"Hey, Chris, fuck you!"
  • Primal Fear: The house full of snakes, spiders, rats and insects.
  • Rape as Drama: Almost happens to Sarah.
  • Rapunzel Hair: Lirio has waist-length hair, which helps establish her as otherworldly.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Nancy gave one in a deleted scene to each of the girls. It takes place before Sarah attempts the binding spell and explains Rochelle and Bonnie's rather abrupt Face–Heel Turn - implying they were scared of Nancy.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Specifically, Snakes Are Evil. Nancy using a pet snake to invoke the spirit is used as Foreshadowing to her being the film's eventual antagonist. She also glamours hundreds of snakes into Sarah's house just to mess with her.
  • Rule of Three: The entire magic outline revolves around the power of "Three Times Three." Meaning once the spell is cast, the caster is marked and it comes back to them 3 times better or worse depending on the spell. In Sarah's case, she casted a love spell. and it slowly escalated times 3. The first time was the spell itself working, Chris became a mindless love slave, that did whatever Sarah said. The second time it escalated, he became so enamored with Sarah that he began stalking her. The third was when he tried to get her alone so he could rape her.
  • Rule of Symbolism: According to Word of God: the film is intended to be a metaphor about the girls' sexual awakening and maturity, via magic; such as exploring themselves and what they're capable of, taking risks and pushing boundaries, reclaiming their bodies and asserting power. Not to mention the Fanservice-y outfits they start sporting...
  • Shapeshifting Seducer: Nancy goes to get revenge on Chris after he tried to rape Sarah as a result of the love spell they put on him, apparently by seducing him so she can perform a Groin Attack (which he anticipates). When she fails to get in his pants, she morphs her face into Sarah's to tempt him, which works. A double whammy, since the love spell means Chris didn't really love Sarah either.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shower of Angst: Laura begins to cry when she realizes her hair is falling out in the shower.
  • Shrinking Violet: Bonnie initially. Anxiety over her fire scars leads her to wear baggy clothing that covers most of her skin.
  • Slut-Shaming: Chris does this to the girls he goes out with, even if they don't sleep with him. Nancy's reaction to Sarah's starry-eyed gazing at him implies Chris did it to her. She warns Sarah that "he carries disease." Him loudly rejecting Sarah to embarrass her is why she casts the love spell on him.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Chris when Brainwashed and Crazy.
  • Terrifying Pet Store Rat: The animals in the torment scene are all the usual subjects from pet stores, none of which really react to Sarah. This is playing off her established fear of snakes at least.
  • Token Minority: Rochelle. She wasn't actually written to be black but when Rachel True was cast, racism was written into her storyline. A deleted scene confirms that Rochelle is the only black girl in the neighborhood.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Sarah, once she realises her raw magic potential, kicks Nancy's ass and cancels out Bonnie and Rochelle's powers for good.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Nancy, Bonnie and Rochelle when their magic gets the better of them.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Implied with Laura Lizzie, who's shown trying to be nice to Rochelle at a party after her Break the Haughty moment.
  • Traumatic Haircut: A variation. A revenge spell on Laura Lizzie causes her hair to fall out.
  • The Weird Sisters: Initially, there are four witches (four is required to make a coven), but in the end it's bad witches Bonnie, Nancy and Rochelle against good witch Sarah.
  • Unexpectedly Real Magic: Teenage girls form a witch's coven, seemingly just as a counterculture act. But the rituals they perform end up having real magical effects.
  • Villains Want Mercy: Once Sarah starts fighting back, Nancy tearfully apologizes and begs for forgiveness. Until Sarah once again attempts a binding curse which results in Nancy trying to knife her.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Towards the end of the film, Nancy turns on Sarah for trying bind her power (due to her becoming Ax-Crazy) and convinces Rochelle and Bonnie to turns against her too, using magic to terrorise her and outright try to kill her by the climax.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes??: As part as the girl's trying to break Sarah, they make her hallucinate snakes, maggots, scorpions, rats, cockroaches, spiders and the like.
  • Witch with a Capital B: Inverted. Chris describes Nancy and her friends to Sarah as "the Bitches of Eastwick"
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: You don't want to end up like Nancy.
  • Woman Scorned: A portion of Nancy's anger comes from Chris sleeping with her once, and jealousy that he likes Sarah.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Nancy might be Ax-Crazy but she's deeply sad about her family's financial state, and has to listen to her mother and stepfather fight every night. A deleted scene has her alluding to everyone leaving her, showing she has massive abandonment issues.
  • Yandere: Chris becomes one after Sarah puts a spell on him. One could argue that Nancy is a Yandere for Chris too.
  • You're Just Jealous: Chris gives this line to Nancy. It turns out to be a major Berserk Button for her.
  • Zettai Ryouiki: All the girls sport this look at various times. (The movie poster, shown above, nearly serves as a chart: Bonnie wears Grade F;note  Nancy, Grade C; Sarah, Grade A; and Rochelle sports Grade B.)


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