Kicking off last Tuesday with The Witches of Eastwick, Witch, Please! continues this week with a look back at the “Bitches of Eastwick.” What better way to prepare for American Horror Story: Coven‘s school for witches than looking back at witches in school?
Frightened at the thought of another day spent watching soaps in her new Los Angeles home, Sarah Bailey (Robin Tunney) opts to start her classes at Catholic prep school. The school jock Chris (Skeet Ulrich) takes notice of Sarah in French class as does bookworm Boonie (Neve Campbell). Bonnie tries to convince Nancy (Fairuza Balk) and Rochelle (Rachel True) that Sarah is the fourth their witches’ circle needs, but Nancy’s not biting. After Chris turns out to be a dick just looking for a little San Francisco treat, Sarah finds solace with the girls and they form a fast bond over magic and being treated as outcasts. Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water; with their coven complete, the four become empowered and witness their wishes coming true. But when Sarah is bothered by how the power changes her friends, Nancy turns against her newfound sister.
While the WB’s Charmed may be the definitive witchy entertainment for the late 90′s, it is the popularity of The Craft which no doubt paved the way for its creation. The correlation may not be explicitly stated, but both The Craft and Charmed use versions of the Smiths’ song How Soon Is Now?, which I can’t hear now without thinking of hot witches.
Speaking of, The Craft capitalizes on the sex appeal of its foursome. Sarah, Nancy, Bonnie and Rochelle exemplify the naughty Catholic school girl fantasy, albeit with the obvious occult spin. As the coven’s supernatural powers develop and they mete out justice to those who’ve wronged them, they carry themselves more confidently. After Laura (Christine Taylor), the racist who torments Rochelle, receives her apt punishment, Rochelle strides head held high through the halls. Bonnie, usually fully clothed to hide her badly burned body, gets a boost of self-confidence and puts it out there for the likes of Chris’s friend Mitt (Breckin Meyer) to drool over. The already provocative Nancy just steps up her game with more expensive trashy attire as her wish comes true.
The charm of The Craft‘s stars isn’t the primary reason to watch, it’s just an added bonus from director Andrew Fleming. As explained by the mystic shop owner, Lirio (Assumpta Serna); that magic is nature and it is the heart of the wielder that uses it for good or evil. This classic story of good versus evil plays out between Sarah and Nancy with Bonnie and Rochelle wavering between. This is where The Craft shines. Tunney, Balk, True and Campbell do an excellent job acting like the giggly, insecure teens they portray. Tunney’s Sarah is vulnerable and naive, hesitant to be true to herself. Balk’s Nancy puts on a bold, rambunctious exterior, but Balk conveys her underlying insecurities and fear magnificently. She also amps up to a sadistic, maniacal, completely unhinged bitch quite superbly.
The witches’ “magical” effects aren’t spectacular, but hold up decently despite being nearly twenty years old. Part of me wished there would have been more scenes with the girls’ struggles, but a bigger part of me is glad the final cut stays well under two hours. Even so, Sarah and Nancy’s final confrontation left me wishing there’d been more. The Craft may not be utterly bewitching, but these four ladies have a charm that warrants your attention.