Editor’s note: The following article contains major spoilers for the end of “The Craft: Legacy.”
For eagle-eyed viewers, the first trailer for Zoe Lister-Jones’ “The Craft: Legacy” packed one hell of a callback to the original 1996 film: a shot of star Fairuza Balk in character as Nancy Downs, the embattled leader of the teen coven that Andrew Fleming’s cult classic followed. While Nancy’s fate in “The Craft” wasn’t at all a happy one — she’s remanded to a psychiatric ward, her powers stripped after a “binding” by Robin Tunney’s Sarah Bailey — Lister-Jones’ film offers a new future for Nancy that could set the stage for a continuing franchise.
Set 25 years after the original, Lister-Jones’ film initially replicates the basic plot that kicked off Fleming’s film, following witch-in-the-making Lily (Cailee Spaeny) and her mother Helen (Michelle Monaghan) as they move in with her mom’s new boyfriend Adam (David Duchovny) and his three teenage sons. Fleming’s film followed new girl Sarah as she moves to a new town, struggles to fit in, and eventually falls in with a powerful trio of young witches. While Lily’s path is, at least at first, very similar to Sarah’s, the film cleverly twists her journey so that it soon resembles that of Nancy who, in the first film, goes a little power-mad once the coven tap into their magic.
Think of it this way: once fellow witches Frankie (Gideon Adlon), Tabby (Lovie Simone), and Lourdes (Zoey Luna) attempt to bind Lily from using her powers, the good-hearted (but perhaps misguided) young witch suddenly looks a lot more like a Nancy than a Sarah. In the final act, that bit of storytelling is expanded into something much more overt, as Helen reveals to Lily that she’s actually adopted, and Lily’s birth mother was a powerful witch that made Helen promise to raise the baby to use her gifts for good.
You can probably guess who that birth mother is: Nancy, who appears in the film’s final scene, locked up in (what we can only assume is) another psychiatric hospital. (There’s no word on who her father might be, but it sounds as if Helen met Nancy when she was attempting to make a new life for herself, likely outside the hospital.) Lily appears in her hospital room doorway, and their connection is powerful and immediate. As Lister-Jones explained to IndieWire, that last reveal isn’t just a nifty twist, it’s a piece of narrative that was built into the script from the start.
“It was part of my original pitch. It was always a part of my vision for the film,” Lister-Jones told IndieWire. “Fairuza Balk is such an idol for me on so many levels. I was really excited to see Nancy now and connect her to this new generation as the sort of Supreme. And, in a perfect world, she has a sequel that could then explore the inter-generational witchcraft communities and how they might come together to take on the evil forces at play.”
Balk’s appearance on set was (understandably) a source of great joy for Lister-Jones and her crew of budding witches, and one she hopes to replicate one day. “It was a dream,” she said. “I had to chill the fuck out when I met her. It was really such an honor that she agreed to take part in this film. She is just the coolest person ever and the most gracious and generous person, and I feel so lucky to have worked with her in the capacity that I have and I hope get to work with her more in the future.”
As for the possibility that the film will inspire another sequel, Lister-Jones is attempting to remain in the moment. “In terms of expectations, I try not to think about that, just because I think the intersection of art and commerce is something that’s very complicated for me as a filmmaker and can be damaging to the creative process,” she said. “Of course I hope that the movie soars, but I’m just happy to share it with as many people as possible. I’m just really happy to be getting the film out there at a time when I think the world just feels very bleak. A little fun and feminism right before for the election!”
A Sony Pictures and Blumhouse Productions release, “The Craft: Legacy” is now available on digital platforms and premium VOD.