Review: ‘Nanny,’ starring Anna Diop, Michelle Monaghan, Sinqua Walls, Leslie Uggams, Morgan Spector and Rose Decker

January 29, 2022

by Carla Hay

Anna Diop in “Nanny” (Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute)

“Nanny”

Directed by Nikyatu Jusu

Some language in French and Wolof with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in New York City, the horror film “Nanny” features a cast of white and black characters (with a few Latinos and Asians) representing the middle-class and working-class.

Culture Clash: An undocumented Senegalese immigrant, who works as a nanny for an upper-middle-class white family in New York City, has nightmarish visions, as she anxiously waits for the arrival of her 6-year-old son from Senegal.

Culture Audience: “Nanny” will appeal mainly to people who are interested in watching movies that draw parallels between mythical horror and the psychological horror of being an underprivileged immigrant who’s experiencing family separation.

Anna Diop and Rose Decker in “Nanny” (Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute)

“Nanny” uses horror-movie techniques that don’t always work as well as they should, but this haunting story nevertheless effectively shows the anguish and terror of being a vulnerable, undocumented immigrant who’s separated from family. It’s yet another horror film where the protagonist (usually a woman) keeps seeing strange, nightmarish visions. And the movie eventually reveals what those visions are about and who will survive in this ordeal. “Nanny” had its world premiere at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the U.S. Dramatic Competition’s Grand Jury Award, which is the festival’s top prize.

In “Nanny” (written and directed by Nikyatu Jusu), the story centers on an undocumented immigrant from Senegal who lives and works in New York City as a nanny. Her name is Aisha (played by Anna Diop), and the main thing that’s on her mind is her planned upcoming reunion with her 6-year-old son Lamine (played by Jahleel Kamara), who lives in Senegal. Aisha is a single mother, so Lamine is in the care of her cousin Mariatou (played by Olamide Candide-Johnson), who keeps in touch with regular phone calls that include video chats with Lamine. Mariatou and Aisha have such a close relationship, they refer to each other as “sister.”

Aisha has been saving enough money to bring Lamine to live with her in the United States. Lamine will be an undocumented immigrant too, but Aisha thinks it’s worth the risk so that they can be reunited with each other. In a conversation that Aisha has with a confidante named Sallay (played by Zephani Idoko), a Nigerian hairdresser who also lives in New York City, viewers find out that Lamine’s biological father is married, and these spouses know about Lamine. It’s implied that Lamine was born out of an extramarital affair.

Aisha had a falling out with Lamine’s father, so she no longer speaks to him. When Sallay suggests that Aisha get financial help from Lamine’s father, by apologizing to him and his wife, Aisha makes this comment that essentially sums up what went wrong: “Apologize?” Aisha says with annoyance. “It is him who should apologize when he impregnates every teen girl on the way to school … He doesn’t care if his own son lives or dies … He cut me off when I was pregnant.”

Before she moved to the U.S., Aisha was a schoolteacher who taught English and French in Senegal. (She mentions it in a conversation. The movie doesn’t have flashbacks.) In other words, Aisha is educated enough to get a higher-paying job than being a nanny. But as an undocumented immigrant in the U.S., her employment options are limited.

In the beginning of the movie, Aisha is seen getting a new job working as a nanny for an upper-middle-class family living in a sleek apartment. The family matriarch who hires Aisha is Amy Harold (played by Michelle Monaghan), a busy corporate executive, who at first seems pleasant and accommodating. Amy’s husband Adam Harold (played by Morgan Spector) is a photojournalist who frequently travels for his job. Amy and Adam have a 5-year-old daughter named Rose (played by Rose Decker), who is a curious and friendly child.

Aisha doesn’t live with the Harold family, but Amy shows Aisha the bedroom where Aisha can stay during the occasions when Aisha might have to do overnight work. As stresses pile on in Aisha’s life, she starts to have nightmares and strange visions, often in this guest bedroom. At first, it might seem that “Nanny” is a haunted house movie, but Aisha starts having nightmares in her own home and starts having hallucinations during the day at various places.

Working overnight in the Harold household involves an extra fee, which Amy and Aisha agreed would be $150. Even though Amy smiles and hugs Aisha on Aisha’s first day on the job, there are some red flags that Amy is a control freak who tests Aisha in how much Amy can get away with in taking advantage of Aisha. One of those red flags is that Amy tries to lowball the amount for the overnight fee until she sees that Aisha didn’t forget the agreed-upon amount and won’t lower the fee.

Amy gives Aisha a journal-sized book of instructions on how to take care of Rose. The journal also has blank pages, where Aisha is expected to keep meticulous entries of what Rose was doing while in Aisha’s care. That might be a fair-enough demand from an overprotective parent. Another reasonable demand is that Aisha cannot burn incense or candles in the home, because Amy says that Rose is “sensitive to smells.”

But Amy is extremely controlling about what Rose can and cannot eat. And it’s not because Rose is on a strict, medical-based diet. Amy will not allow Rose to eat any food that’s considered “exotic” or “spicy.” Rose is expected to eat only bland food that’s considered American or European cuisine. You know what this diet restriction implies, of course.

It doesn’t take long for Aisha to break this rule, when she cooks some African dishes for herself, such as jollof rice, and Rose insists on eating it too. Rose likes eating African food so much that Aisha secretly gives Rose some of this food to eat when Amy isn’t there. Rose and Aisha have a very good rapport with each other. In many ways, because Aisha isn’t as controlling and moody as Amy, Rose seems to like Aisha more than Rose likes her own mother.

Over time, Amy becomes a much more difficult and unpleasant employer. She makes last-minute demands for Aisha to stay overnight, without much regard for the possibility that Aisha could have other plans that she wouldn’t be able to change on such short notice. Amy also expects Aisha to listen to Amy’s complaints about Amy’s job, even though it isn’t part of Aisha’s job description to be a counselor for Amy.

Even worse, Amy stops paying Aisha, with vague excuses that it’s not a good time to pay her, and that Aisha just has to be patient to get the money that Aisha is owed. When Aisha asks Adam to help with this problem, he agrees to help on one occasion when he gives Aisha some cash as a partial payment. But then, Adam passes the responsibility completely back to Amy, who makes veiled threats to Aisha that she can have Aisha deported if Aisha complains about not getting paid.

These are all tactics used by unscrupulous employers who take advantage of undocumented workers, because they know the workers don’t want to be deported. Ironically, in a conversation that Aisha has with Sallay fairly early on in the movie, Sallay comments, “I’d rather be a slave in America than a slave in Africa. At least here, when you work, you see the money.” “Nanny” shows how easily it is for undocumented workers to become modern-day slaves when employers refuse to pay for employees’ work.

It might be easy for some viewers to wonder why Aisha didn’t just quit and find a job somewhere else. But the type of domestic work she would be looking for relies almost entirely on personal referrals. (She can’t go to an employment agency, for obvious reasons.) Someone in Aisha’s situation would be terrified of being “blackballed” or labeled a “troublemaker” by the usually insular community of well-to-do people in New York City who hire undocumented workers to be their domestic employees.

In addition, Aisha has some sexual harassment to deal in this job. It’s telegraphed as soon as Adam is first seen in the movie. When he arrives home from a business trip, he coldly and rudely reacts to Amy as she greets him warmly with a hug and a kiss. Adam soon finds out that he has come home to a surprise birthday party that Amy has arranged. He immediately puts on his “happy husband” face to the party guests, but the tension in this marriage is noticeable to anyone who saw how dismissively Adam was acting toward Amy when he walked in the door.

Aisha notices it, but she avoids getting in the middle of Amy and Adam’s marital problems. It’s perhaps unavoidable that at some point, Aisha and Adam are alone together. On one of those occasions, Adam shows her a photo portrait on display in the home that he says is probably one of the best photos he’s ever taken. It’s a photo of a young African man during a civil uprising protest. Adam also says that his specialty is taking these types of photos because he cares about social justice. He brags about it, as if it’s supposed to make him look like an open-minded liberal.

Eventually, Aisha makes the mistake of confiding in Adam that she’s anxiously awaiting the arrival of her son Lamine from Senegal. As soon as Adam finds out that Aisha has this emotional vulnerability, it’s not much of a surprise when he makes a sexual advance on her by kissing her fully on the mouth. She reacts with surprise, but makes it clear to Adam that she’s not interested.

Adam makes a profuse apology, and he promises that it won’t happen again. But at this point, it’s obvious to viewers (and Aisha) that Adam can’t really be trusted. Aisha tries to act like Adam’s sexual harassment never happened. After all, Aisha is too afraid to report this sexual harassment because she doesn’t want to expose her undocumented immigrant status. Adam knows it too, which is probably why he felt emboldened to sexually harass her.

Meanwhile, Aisha has caught the attention of a doorman who works in the apartment building. He’s a single father named Malik (played by Sinqua Walls), who flirts with her and is persistent, even when she doesn’t seem interested. Eventually, Malik charms Aisha to go on a date with him.

The icebreaker happens when Malik’s son Bishop (played by Jamier Williams), who’s about 7 or 8 years old, happens to be visiting Malik in the apartment lobby when Aisha is there. Malik introduces Bishop to Aisha. Bishop then blurts out: “My dad has a crush on you!” Aisha likes that Malik seems to be a devoted and loving father, so she agrees to go on a date with him.

Mailk and Aisha eat at a soul-food restaurant on their first date. Before they head to the restaurant, Malik brings her to his grandmother’s place for a brief meeting with his grandmother Kathleen (played by Leslie Uggams), whom he adores and respects. Malik also says that Kathleen is psychic.

During this short visit, Aisha mentions to Kathleen that she’s been having unsettling dreams about a mermaid who’s trying to drown Aisha. Viewers find out later that Aisha’s dreams are related to the African folklore of the mermaid Mami Wata. Aisha tells Kathleen that she’s not superstitious, and she doesn’t believe in magic.

Kathleen replies, “Whether you do or not, you are magic.” Kathleen also asks, “What’s your boy’s name?” A startled Aisha replies, “How did you know?” Before she leaves, Aisha says to Kathleen, “His name is Lamine.”

During their dinner date, Malik and Aisha both talk about their lives and their families. Malik is co-parenting Bishop with Bishop’s mother, who is Malik’s ex-girlfriend. (This ex-girlfriend is not in the movie.) Aisha and Malik find out that they have something else in common besides being parents to young sons: Malik’s and Aisha’s mothers are both deceased. Malik mentions that his mother had schizophrenia.

Things continue to go well in the romance between Malik and Aisha, but her nanny job and her hallucinations become increasingly alarming. She begins to see spiders in her bed. In one scene, a spider crawls into her mouth. It’s a nod to the African horror myth of the spider Anansi.

Aisha really begins to come psychologically unglued when the visions or hallucinations she’s seeing begin happening outside of her sleep at night and occur in her daytime activities. While in a park with some other nannies, she sees Lamine, even though she knows he’s really in Senegal. And when she’s at a public swimming pool with Rose, Aisha sees the mermaid try to drown her again. But then she wakes up on the edge of the pool, with strangers around her telling her that she fainted.

And it gets worse for Aisha. “Nanny” keeps viewers guessing over whether or not Aisha is experiencing sleepwalking, psychotic breaks or something supernatural. There’s a very harrowing point in the movie where it looks like serious harm or death could happen to an innocent person.

Although there’s plenty of tension in “Nanny,” some of the movie’s intended “jump scares” get a little too repetitive. How many times do viewers have to see Aisha seeing something terrifying, only to find out that she was dreaming or unconscious? After a while, the impact of these scares diminishes, and it feels like too many jump scares that don’t further the movie’s story.

However, there’s a big “reveal” in the last third of the movie that explains why Aisha keeps having these frightening visions. The revelation is both tragic and emotionally devastating. Only in hindsight can viewers clearly see some of the clues leading up to to this big revelation.

Diop carries the movie quite well with the wide range of emotions that she has to convey. The character of Aisha is really the only one who comes closest to being a fully developed character in the movie. Writer/director Jusu effectively immerses viewers in Aisha’s interior and exterior life. And many the horror scenes are genuinely creepy, even though the spider scenes look a bit recycled from many other horror movies.

Unfortunately, the supporting characters aren’t very well-developed in this movie. All of the cast members in supporting roles do capable performances, but they are just performing “types” of people: Amy and Adam are the “exploitative boss” type. Rose is the “cute kid” type. Malik is the “nice guy” type. Kathleen is the “mysterious psychic” type.

All of the movie’s immigrant worker characters who are not Aisha don’t have enough screen time to make an impact on the story. The scene in the park has two Caribbean nannies named Cynthia (played by Keturah Hamilton) and Florence (played by Mitzie Pratt), who have a very realistic and sometimes hilarious conversation, but this brief scene is all that the movie has for these lively characters. Aisha’s friendship with Sallay is also quickly introduced and then ignored for the rest of the movie.

If “Nanny” wanted to make a statement about the culture and conditions under which immigrant nannies work in New York City, then Aisha is the only significant perspective that’s presented, to put an emphasis on her isolation. In that regard, the romance story with Malik seems a little extraneous and tacked on as a reason for Aisha to come in contact with Malik’s psychic grandmother. At one point in the movie, when Aisha starts to believe that maybe something supernatural is happening, she seeks out advice from Kathleen.

“Nanny” can be commended for putting the spotlight on the reality that many nannies in America are undocumented non-white immigrants, even though movies made in America usually depict nannies in America as white women who are U.S. citizens. “Nanny” is more of a psychological portrait than a general overview of the exploitation that can often occur in this line of work. It’s a movie that’s bound to make some people uncomfortable, but acknowledging that race, ethnicity and citizenship play big roles in how workers are treated is at least the first step in dealing with this discrimination problem.

UPDATE: Amazon Studios will release “Nanny” in select U.S. cinemas and on Prime Video, on dates to be announced.

Review: ‘The Craft: Legacy,’ starring Cailee Spaeny, Zoey Luna, Gideon Adlon, Lovie Simone, David Duchovny and Michelle Monaghan

October 28, 2020

by Carla Hay

Lovie Simone, Gideon Adlon, Cailee Spaeny and Zoey Luna in “The Craft: Legacy” (Photo courtesy of Rafy Photography/Columbia Pictures)

“The Craft: Legacy” 

Directed by Zoe Lister-Jones

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed U.S. city, “The Craft: Legacy” features a predominantly white cast (with some Latinos and African Americans) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: Four teenage witches use their witchcraft to turn a school bully into a politically correct, enlightened person, but they find out these actions cause a major backlash.

Culture Audience: “The Craft: Legacy” will appeal primarily to people who like stories about witches that play it very safe. 

David Duchovny, Michelle Monaghan and Cailee Spaeny in “The Craft: Legacy” (Photo courtesy of Rafy Photography/Columbia Pictures)

Just like Blumhouse Productions’ 2019 remake of the sorority horror flick “Black Christmas,” the foundation of Blumhouse Productions’ 2020 teenage witch film “The Craft: Legacy” (a reimagining of the 1996 movie “The Craft”) is about empowering women in the #MeToo feminist era. But “The Craft: Legacy” (written and directed by Zoe Lister-Jones) makes the same mistake that the 2019 remake of “Black Christmas” did: By telegraphing these feminist intentions so early in the movie, it’s very easy to figure out who the “villains” are in the story.

The heavy-handed preachiness of “The Craft: Legacy” would be easier to take if the movie delivered a better story that wasn’t filled with major plot holes and had a more consistent tone. This movie needed more horror gravitas and more impressive visual effects instead of ill-suited comedic bits and cheap-looking visual effects that weaken the story’s message.

There are parts of “The Craft: Legacy” that work fairly well: The cast members do adequately good jobs in their roles, and there’s a realistic handling of awkward issues in blended families. But too many other parts of the movie don’t work well at all and are at times quite dull and predictable.

“Black Christmas” and its remakes at least made concerted efforts to be terrifying. By contrast, “The Craft: Legacy,” which obviously has a younger audience in mind than an adult-oriented slasher flick like “Black Christmas,” only has mild scares that are disappointing and often take a back seat to the movie wanting to look more like a teen drama than a horror film. That doesn’t mean that “The Craft: Legacy” had to have a lot of gore, but there are several noteworthy horror movies that are suitable for underage audiences and are still able to be effectively terrifying. Some examples include 1982’s “Poltergeist,” 2001’s “The Others” and 2002’s “The Ring.”

The basic premise of “The Craft” remains intact in “The Craft: Legacy.” Three teenage witches, who are social outcasts at their high school in an unnamed U.S. city, are powerless because they need a fourth witch to complete the circle of their coven. They find out that a new outsider girl at their school is also a witch, and they invite her to join their coven. The four teen witches then use their newfound magical powers to make their wishes come true and get revenge on people who hurt them in some way. The “new girl” is the story’s main protagonist.

In “The Craft,” Neve Campbell, Fairuza Balk, and Rachel True were the original trio of witches, while Robin Tunney played the “new girl” invited into the coven. In “The Craft: Legacy,” the “new girl” is Lily Schechner (played by Cailee Spaeny), while the original coven trio consists of sassy transgender Lourdes (played by Zoey Luna), goofy jokester Frankie (played by Gideon Adlon) and Afrocentric-minded Tabby (played by Lovie Simone).

Spaeny gets the most screen time of the four, and she does a fairly good job in portraying Lily’s angst, although she’s not as assertive as Tunney’s “newbie” character in “The Craft.” Lily is the only one of the four witches whose home life and family are shown in the movie. It’s a big change from the 1996 “The Craft,” where viewers got to see the home lives and family members of three out of the four witches.

Luna is memorable as Lourdes, the member of the coven who’s the most emotionally mature and the unofficial “alpha female” of the group. Adlon will either delight or annoy people with how she portrays Frankie, whose hyperactive and somewhat ditzy energy can get on people’s nerves after a while. Just like True’s character in “The Craft” movie, Simone plays the “supportive friend” whose personality is overshadowed by the other members of the coven.

“The Craft” was set in a private Catholic school where the students had to wear uniforms, whereas “The Craft: Legacy” is set in a regular public school. It’s a change of setting that alters the impact of what being an “outsider” in the school really means. Someone who wears Goth makeup (as does one of the teenage witches in each “Craft” movie) and who’s suspected of being a witch is less likely to be a considered a rebel or an outcast at a public school, compared to a private Catholic school with strict policies about religion, hair, clothes and makeup.

Because the school in the original “The Craft” movie was a private institution, there was more of an elitist aura to the school, which made the teen witches’ “outsider” status a little bit more socially dangerous for them at the school. The World Wide Web was fairly new in the mid-1990s. Social media and smartphones didn’t exist back then. Therefore, the teen witches of “The Craft” probably felt more isolated for being “different” than they would be in modern times when they could find other like-minded people on the Internet.

In “The Craft: Legacy,” social media is not seen or mentioned at all, which is probably writer/director Lister-Jones’ way of trying not to make the movie look too dated when it’s viewed years from now. In fact, the movie has several “throwback” nods to pop culture from a past era. For example, during a car ride, Lily and her mother sing Alanis Morissette’s 1995 hit “Hand in My Pocket.” And in multiple scenes, Lourdes uses a Polaroid camera.

Lily is a pixie-ish and introverted only child who has recently moved to the area with her single mother Helen Schechner (played by Michelle Monaghan), who is a therapist from New Jersey. Lily mentions later in the story that she doesn’t know who her father is, and Helen has never told her. Helen and Lily have relocated because Helen is moving in with her boyfriend Adam Harrison (played by David Duchovny), a motivational speaker/author whose specialty is giving empowering advice and self-help therapy for men.

Adam has three teenage sons, who are introduced to Lily for the first time on the day that Lily and Helen arrive to move into their two-story house. Oldest son Isaiah (played by Donald MacLean Jr.) is about 17 years old. Middle son Jacob (played by Charles Vandervaart) is about 16 years old. Youngest son Abe (played by Julian Grey) is about 14 years old. People who see this movie and have knowledge of Judeo-Christian history will notice right away how biblical these names are.

Isaiah is a “strong, silent type” who’s somewhat of an enigma. Jacob is a popular but brooding heartthrob at school. (Goofball witch Frankie has a mild crush on Jacob.) Abe seems to be the kindest and most sensitive of the three brothers, and he’s the only one of the brothers to attempt to befriend Lily. It’s strange that Helen and Adam would wait until move-in day for their children to meet each other for the first time, but there are stranger things that have happened in real life.

Meanwhile, although Adam isn’t overtly sexist, he is very much about male bonding and men’s rights. Living with two females in the house is quite an adjustment for him and his sons. (The mother of Adam’s sons is not seen or mentioned in the movie.) Adam spends a lot of time traveling to host male-only retreats, where he helps men get in touch with their masculinity and innermost feelings. Adam has a mantra that he instills in his sons and his followers: “Power is order.”

Lily’s mother Helen has a different view of power: She constantly tells Lily, “Your differences are your power.” It’s clear that Lily and Helen both know that Lily has supernatural powers, but Lily hasn’t been able to harness those powers for anything major that would fully expose her for being a witch. That is, until she joins the coven.

Adam has gotten notoriety for a book called “Hollowed Masculinity,” which basically preaches that men shouldn’t be afraid of or apologetic for being dominant leaders. One day, while Lily is getting to know the different rooms in her new home, she goes in the home’s study/library and sees the book. When she picks up the book, she drops it quickly, as if the book could’ve burned her. This movie is not subtle at all.

Just like in “The Craft,” there’s a school bully who gets put under a spell by the witches. In “The Craft: Legacy,” the bully’s name is Timmy (played by Nicholas Galitzine), and he happens to be Jacob’s best friend. Lily has a humiliating experience in her first day at the school, when she gets her menstrual period while she’s sitting down at a desk in class. Lily doesn’t know that she’s gotten her period until Timmy announces it and points out the blood on the floor to everyone in the class. “Did you drop something?” Timmy sneers. And then he cruelly adds, “It looks like a crime scene.”

A mortified Lily runs into a restroom and locks herself into a stall to clean up after herself. And she’s soon followed by Lourdes, Frankie and Tabby, who give her sympathy and tell Lily that Timmy has bullied them too. Tabby offers her gym shorts for Lily to wear, since Lily’s jeans are too bloody to put back on again. It’s a generous and kind gesture that goes a long way, because Lily ultimately befriends this trio.

Another big difference between “The Craft” and “The Craft: Legacy” is that the newcomer fourth witch joins the coven a lot quicker in “The Craft: Legacy.” Lily becomes a part of their group within a few days of knowing Lourdes, Frankie and Tabby. They begin to suspect that Lily’s a witch when Timmy taunts Lily again in the school hallway, and she’s able to throw Timmy up against a locker and make him fall down, just by using her mind. This incident puts both Timmy and Lily in detention.

While she’s in detention, Lily begins to hear the voices of the other witches talking to her in her mind. They tell her to meet them in a hallway restroom, and she does. And that’s how Lourdes, Frankie and Tabby are able to confirm that Lily is a witch too. Not long after that, all of four of them start doing spell experiments, such as levitating, before they decide to unleash their full powers. And just like in the first “Craft” movie, snakes and butterflies are in some scenes in the movie where supernatural things happen.

One of the frustrating things about “The Craft: Legacy” is that it doesn’t really expound on the unique powers that each witch has in this coven. Lourdes represents the north, with her power derived from the earth. Frankie’s power represents the east, with her power derived from air. Tabby’s power represents the south, with her power derived from fire. And to complete the circle, Lily’s power represents the west, with her power derived from water.

You would think that these specific powers would be incorporated more into the spells that they cast on people. But aside from some cutesy colors that swirl around when they chant, their unique powers are all talk and almost no action. There are lots of ways to cause witchcraft terror by using the earth, air, fire or water, but those avenues are not fully explored in this movie. Maybe the movie’s budget was too low for the visual effects that would be needed.

And speaking of visual effects, the witch characters in “The Craft: Legacy” mention being fans of the 2008 teen vampire film “Twilight” multiple times. And it’s somewhat ironic, because the much-ridiculed “sparkling vampire” aspects of “Twilight” get sort of a nod in “The Craft: Legacy,” in scenes where there are sparkly effects around the witches, most notably when Lily takes a bath in sparkly purple water.

It’s an aesthetic that’s more like “My Little Pony” instead of “Mistress of the Dark,” and it’s really hard to take “The Craft: Legacy” seriously as a horror movie at that point. There are scenes in the Disney movie “Maleficent” that are scarier than “The Craft: Legacy,” and that’s a major disappointment because Blumhouse movies shouldn’t skimp on the scares.

Another aspect of the film that’s dangled in front of viewers and never quite comes to fruition is that it’s mentioned fairly early on that the foursome coven will get to enact four stages of their full powers: Stage One is telekinesis. Stage Two is mind infiltration. Stage Four is shapeshifting. Frankie tells Lily that Stage Three will be revealed later. But that reveal is another big disappointment. And the shapeshifting (which was used to great effect in the 1996 “Craft” movie) becomes an abandoned idea for the witches in “The Craft: Legacy.”

Whereas the original “Craft” movie had the over-the-top, unhinged performance of Balk as the “loose cannon” witch of the group, there is no such unpredictable personality in this “Craft: Legacy” coven. In fact, all of the witches in this coven are extremely cautious of not going too far to hurt people. If you can believe it, these witches are too politically correct, which doesn’t really work in a story that’s supposed to be about teen witches who want to get revenge on people who’ve tormented them.

Instead of a variety of individual spells that made the original “Craft” movie entertaining to watch, the story of “The Craft: Legacy” focuses on one big group spell, which they put on Timmy. After the spell, he goes from being a sexist bully to a “woke” guy who’s a walking stereotype of an uber-sensitive, progressive liberal. While that mindset might be scary to people on certain ends of the political spectrum, this movie should have been more about horror instead of the political leanings of people who aren’t even old enough to vote.

“The Craft” had a spell put on the class bully so that he would be lovesick over the newbie witch. “The Craft: Legacy” goes one step further and makes the reformed bully not only a potential love interest for the newbie witch (Lily), but he also becomes a feminist who would rather pal around with all four of the witches than hang out with his male buddies. It’s the movie’s way of saying that men can be feminists too, but the message ultimately isn’t that great if the only way a male in this story becomes an “enlightened” feminist is if he’s “tricked” into it by a witch’s spell.

Galitzine is quite good in his role as Timmy, who goes through this drastic personality change. One of the best scenes in the movie is when Timmy and his four new gal pals hang out together and confess some of their biggest secrets. Timmy’s biggest secret is one of the movie’s few major surprises. It’s an emotional scene, but it’s completely different from the “jokey teen antics” tone that the movie was going for in the first half of the film.

After Timmy’s secret is revealed, things take a dark turn in the movie, which would’ve benefited from a dark tone from the beginning. But by the time the big showdown happens at the end of the movie, there are two major plot holes that just can’t redeem this disappointing film.

The first major plot hole involves a “bound spell” that prevents a witch or witches from casting any more spells to do harm. And yet during the big showdown, this “bound spell” is completely forgotten in the plot, as if it never happened. The second big plot hole involves the reveal of the chief villain, who should have several allies in the movie’s climactic showdown, but the villain inexplicably and strangely is the only adversary in this big fight.

And this crucial action sequence in the movie is more talk than suspenseful action. The action just brings more sparkles instead of true terror. There are other parts of the movie that are even more tedious and might induce boredom or the urge to go to sleep.

There’s a “surprise” cameo at the end of the film that isn’t much of a surprise. (And if people really want to know who does this cameo, it’s not a secret, because this person’s name is in the Internet Movie Database list of cast members for “The Craft: Legacy.“) The cameo isn’t that big of a deal because this person does not speak any lines in the movie and is only seen in the last few seconds of the film.

“The Craft: Legacy” seems to have had the right intentions when it was conceived as an updated version of “The Craft.” But somewhere along the way, the filmmakers made the mistake of diminishing the horror of the original “Craft” movie and making “The Craft: Legacy” more of a sparkly teen soap opera.

Columbia Pictures released “The Craft: Legacy” on digital and VOD October 28, 2020.

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