Getting witchy: ‘Craft: Legacy,’ ‘Spell’

By Tom Von Malder | Jan 09, 2021
Photo by: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment The four young witches of "The Craft: Legacy" are played by, from left, Zoey Luna, Gideon Adlon, Cailee Spaeny and Lovie Simone.

Owls Head — The Craft: Legacy (Sony, Blu-ray or standard DVD, PG-13, 94 min.). This is more of a follow-up than a sequel to the first “Craft” film, which came out in 1996 and was well received. Again, the film centers on four young women – high school students – who are learning to control their witch powers. While many of the ancillary characters and situations are cliché, one male character is given extra depth and complexity. An hour in, the film turns more serious and turns into what I correctly surmised was more of a murder mystery.

The beginning three witches, who are convinced they need a fourth to complete their coven so they can accomplish any significant spells, are Frankie (Gideon Adlon of Netflix’s “The Society”), Tabby (Lovie Simone of “Selah and the Spades,” TV’s “Greenleaf”) and Lourdes (Zoey Luna of TV’s “Pose”), who is referred to as transgendered and who is given a Mexican grandmother who is a bruja (witch), but only in two of the four deleted scenes. Then new girl Lily (Cailee Spaeny of “Bad Times at the El Royale,” “Pacific Rim: Uprising”) shows up and receives a telepathic message from the other three at school, as the trio realizes they have found their fourth, and soon are able to perform spells beyond their wildest dreams.

Lily, of course, has the most developed backstory. She has just traveled cross-country with her mother (Michelle Monaghan of “Gone Baby Gone,” TV’s “True Detective”), who has suddenly decided to move in with her online boyfriend Adam (David Duchovny of TV’s “The X-Files,” “Californication” playing his role straight), who is a self-help guru for men and best-selling author. Adam has three teenagers of his own in Isaiah (Donald MacLean Jr.), who is more pivotal in mentions than actual screen time; good-looking Jacob (Charles Vandervaart of Netflix’s “Lost in Space”), whom one of the witches has the hots for; and younger Abe (Julian Grey of “Downhill,” TV’s “Wayward Pines”), who at least talks to Lily.

The four girls connect after Lily gets her period in class and Timmy (Nicholas Galitzine of “The Beat Beneath My Feet,” “High Strung,” “Handsome Devil” – all three of which I highly recommend – and Netflix’s “Chambers”) speaks cruelly to Lilly. It turns out, Timmy is a friend to both Isaiah and Jacob and has a secret he does not want Jacob to know, but which he tells the girls after they cast a spell that makes him nicer, more aware of the proper way to manage his feelings and treat girls. Galitzine has a couple of the best scenes in the film.

The film’s biggest weakness is that other than Lily, the young witches are not fleshed out as characters. Their acting is breezy and suitable, though. The film was written and directed by Zoe Lister-Jones, a veteran TV actress who has directed one other film and some television. In addition to the four deleted/alternate scenes (11:39, introduced by Lister-Jones), there are a look at the original film and its legacy (2:27) and a look at the story and director (3:11). Grade: film 2.5 stars; extras 1.5 stars

Rating guide: 5 stars = classic; 4 stars = excellent; 3 stars = good; 2 stars = fair; dog = skip it

Spell (Paramount, Blu-ray or standard DVD, R, 91 min.). This horror film, based on hoodoo, the African form of voodoo, centers around a man who is flying his family up into the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky so he can handle his late father’s estate. The plane crashes during a lightning storm and the man awakes to find himself trapped in an attic by an elderly couple. The film immediately brings Stephen King’s “Misery” to mind and even the buildings’ layout and the situation slightly also bring to mind “The Passion of Darkly Noon.”

The two protagonists are well acted. Omari Hardwick of TV’s “Power” plays the trapped man, lawyer Marquis T. Woods. His “jailer” is Ms. Eloise, a backwoods hoodoo priestess played by Loretta Devine of “Urban Legend,” TV’s “Boston Public.” Ms. Eloise is supported by her husband Earl (John Beasley of “The Purge: Anarchy,” TV’s “The Soul Man,” “Treme”) and very big Lewis (Steve Mululu). Missing are the rest of Woods’ family: his wife Veora (Lorraine Burroughs of “Fast Girls,” TV’s “DCI Banks”), son Tydon (newcomer Kalifa Burton) and daughter Sam (Hannah Gonera of “Camp Getaway”).

There are flashbacks to Wood’s youth, when his father so severely beat him that he still bears the scars. He wants to raise his children differently, but his wife accuses him of raising them to be “entitled jerks.”

As Ms. Eloise supposedly nurses Woods to health – while keeping in isolation – she explains that she has created a boogity in his image, a doll-like figure with a head of clay, and whatever befalls the boogity befalls the person it represents. She calls it folk magic, but it is hoodoo.

The movie, directed by Mark Tonderai (“The Passage,” Netflix’s “Locke & Key”), who often operated one of the three simultaneously used cameras, and written by Kurt Wimmer (the remakes of “Total Recall,” “Point Break”), mostly succeeds in creating atmosphere. The fact that Woods so often can crawl over roofs and creep around the house to discover where he is and what is going on is just not believable. And most of the scares come from an icky scene involving the removal of a sharp object from a body, and then replacing that object!

The ending makes up for a lot, as Woods turns the tables on his captors by using their own hoodoo against them, but even the “turncoat” is telegraphed.

Extras include 15 deleted scenes (26:51), including an alternate opening that sets up the supernatural element way too soon and a talky alternate ending. Frankly, none of the deleted scenes are worth much. Better are two featurettes: a making-of piece (17:54); and a look at the production design with Paula Loos and the costume design with Danielle Knox (12:49). There also is a short film, “The Nightmare Spell” (3:10), which also could be considered a deleted scene. Grade: film 2.25 stars; extras 2 stars

Jungleland (Paramount, DVD, R, 89 min.). Where “Jungleland” succeeds is with its acting, but it fails miserably with its story about two brothers in debt and involved in underground bare-knuckle boxing. Plus, weirdly, the film shares its title with that of a Bruce Springsteen song, but end the film with Springsteen singing “Dream Baby Dream” instead of “Jungleland.” (I just had to throw that oddity in.) Also, forgive the deserved pun, the film telegraphs far too many of its punches, especially involving the vehicle they are driving across country.

Charlie Hunnam (TV’s “Sons of Anarchy,” “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword”) plays Stanley Kaminsky, the brother who acts like the manager/trainer of sibling Lion (Jack O’Connell of “’71,” “Starred Up”), who is the boxer with the gifted hands. Something Stanley did involving gambling, got Lion’s license for regular boxing revoked. They are much in debt, especially to Pepper (Jonathan Majors of HBO’s “Lovecraft Country”), and live in a condemned building they have broken into, while working in a sewing factory (so much for protecting Lion’s hands). During the film, we learn that Stanley likes to wear nice clothes and Lion would like to open a dry-cleaning business.

When Lion realizes Stanley has bet with Pepper on his latest fight, he deliberately loses. However, this forces the brothers to transport Sky (Jessica Barden of “Hanna,” “The Lobster”) from Massachusetts to Reno, Nevada, before they continue on to San Francisco and the Jungleland bare-knuckle boxing tournament with a $100,000 prize.

While initially standoffish, Sky starts to bond with Lion, but first she crashes their vehicle, forcing a detour to try and get repair money from her ultra-religious mother and stepdad in Gary, Indiana. They are played by Margaret Devine and Jere Shea. The trio then break into Sky’s former high school to spend the night. More unexpected detours follow.

Another oddity is the moody film about traveling across America has three British actors as its leads. There are no bonus features. Grade: 2.5 stars

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