Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Craft

Now is the time. This is the hour. Ours is the magic. Ours is the power!

Welcome to the Witching hour.

Before Cassie and Thelma, before Pru, Pipper, Phoebe and Paige, even before Willow and Tara, there was Sarah, Nancy, Bonnie, and Rochelle. It was in fact due to the success of 'The Craft' that we even saw those other witches, or did you miss Love Spit Love's version of How Soon is Now? in both The Craft and Charmed? Or even the similarity in the above quote? Or how about that Morpheus font face for the movie poster? Where did you see that before 1996? How about after? (WitchCraft and Angel corebooks I am looking at you…oh, and my 1999 Witches’ netbook too).

The movie starts out with the new girl in town, Sarah Bailey. She comes to St. Benedicts Academy in LA and wants to fit into the in crowd, but instead finds herself drawn to these three outsiders, Nancy, Bonnie and Rochelle. Though she tries to avoid them, Sarah comes to realize that they share a connection. The girls introduce Sarah to their coven. We learn the girls dabble in magic but have never been able to do much and that Sarah has some power of her own (Bonnie watches Sarah absent mindedly levitate a pencil in class). She is accepted in their group, and secrets are traded (Sarah mom died when she was young and she tried to commit suicide a while back). In a ceremony, the girls unlock their own magic and thats when the movie moves into high gear.

Chris: Anyway, they're-- nah, never mind.
Sarah: What? What?
Chris: They're witches.

But as girls grow in power the power goes to their heads. Even level headed Sarah ends up turning a boy into her mindless slave. Of course that is only the beginning when Rochelle strikes out at a rival swimmer, and Nancy seeks vengeance on her moms boyfriend. Like Charmed, the girls need to learn that magic has consequences, and often those consequences are returned to them three-fold. Once Nancy realizes that she had made Chris nothing more than a toy, she is horrified. The others revel in their new found powers. Guessing, correctly, that Sarah wants out, they launch a preemptive strike against her. They try to make her attempt suicide again, and battle her (Crowley style) with magic. It is only when Sarah accepts who, and what she is, a natural witch, that she is able to deal with a now murderous Nancy. Sarah binds their powers and we leave with her having more power than before and Nancy locked up in a mental hospital.

I have this real love/hate relationship with this film. I was prepared to really like this flick and man was I disappointed. For a while I hated it, now I just look at it and see a lot of failed potential. I mean they had all the right elements (no pun intended) but somehow all they made with it was kind of a mess. At least Practical Magic knew when to talk about things, when to let the story take over and when to shut up. I would like to see this cast in another, better witch movie, either together or by themselves. Hell, Neve Campbell was a better witch in Wild Things.
I do love witches, so in that vein the film itself is ok, I liked the owner of the magic store, Lirio, and I might have a no small fondness for girls in Catholic school uniforms (esp. if it is these girls), but I don't know if that excuses it's faults. The whole 'Manon' or 'Mano' thing annoyed the hell out of me (at least it was not Manos!), in some parts the movie just dragged, and I never bought into a lot of Nancy’s motivation on things.

I did like the attempt to put some real-life ceremonies into their magic (the entering the Circle with perfect love and trust was nice) and I liked the writers showing them being just girls (the 'light as feather, stiff as a board' deal).

Then of course there is the behind the movie story, that The Craft was written in conjunction with real Pagans/Wiccans (it was to an extent, Fairuz is a neopagan), that it caused thousands to turn to Wicca as a religion (it did, but how many of those then later went on to the next thing?), and that Fairuza Balk is a practicing witch and she used to own an Occult book store (true, and she has since had some not-so-nice things to say about this movie). But the one thing that The Craft does REALLY well is stir up the online pagan community like no other film. Wiccan writer Raymond Buckland has had quite a lot to say about The Craft and not all of it good (for the record he dislikes Buffy’s magic system, but liked Tara, and he likes Charmed to an extent). Though Buckland in 2001 did do the forward of a book called, guess what, The Craft using the same Morpheus font face that appears on the movie poster and a Charmed triquetra.

For this I take the Mystery Science Theater 3000 approach; repeat to yourself it is only a show and really just relax. That said, lets get on with what we are really supposed to do with this film, come up with things for our games!

Driver: Watch out for the weirdoes, girls.
Nancy: We are the weirdoes, mister.

The Craft in Your Game
Mage (either oWoD or nWoD) has potential, but there is so much baggage with Mage. Though I had considered writing up the Craft girls using nMage at one point and I think it could work, but there would need to be some fundemenatal changes made.

A Unisystem game would be great, but which one? WitchCraft again is a good choice, the girls do invocations, and they could very easily be Solitaries and Wicce. But again, there is nothing like Essence, or crowd effects, or anything that makes WitchCraft so special. There are no invocations here, just Hollywood magic. So CineUnisystem is not a bad choice either. We can emulate the girls with levels of Sorcerery easily, account for most of their magics and fit them in a movie environment.

If you keep the girls in High School a Witch Girls Adventures based game would also work great. The Elementalism magic in WGA is practically perfect as it is for this.

When/How/Why do you want to drop them in to your game?
I see three basic plots.

1. Do the Movie
The Cast can meet the girls while the events of the movie are going on. Great for High School based games. Directors should keep in mind about how events can and will change with the involvement of the Cast. Will Nancy still go crazy? Will the girls join forces against a common foe (the Cast)? Will Sarah join the Cast?

2. Do a Sequel
Ok, so the Craft movie did its thing in 1996 and we were supossed to get a sequel, but didn't. Well its 2009, Sarah is 29, out of college, living in Seattle and a powerful Wicca/Wicce. That is where she meets the Cast. Maybe Nancy is out of the mental hospital and is looking for Sarah. Maybe Bonnie and Rochelle (and Nancy for that matter) have found a new source of power and want to finish the work began at the end of the Craft?

3. Choose your Own Ending
What is the good of having an RPG based on a mass-media license if you can’t change what the original author did? How about this. The Craft did not end the way it did. The girls fought but everyone retained their powers and an occult cold-war exists now between them, with Nancy on one side, Sarah on the other and Bonnie and Rochelle in the middle. Or maybe they came to terms when something else posed a bigger threat. Or just take the girls and drop them, context free, into your adventure.

Part of me, because I do like Fairuza Balk and she is a Pagan in real life, wants to see Nancy redeemed. But you can’t save everyone I guess. Maybe take her role as Mildred in 1986's The Worst Witch and update it with Nancy in mind. Or, given her role as Dorothy in 1985's Return the Oz, maybe she is now a witch hunter (Careful, be a good witch or Nancy will drop a house on you). Fairuza does play a great bad girl though and to deny that would be a crime.

Tomorrow, the crunchy stuff.


christian said...

I need to see that. Thanks for the review. :)

Malcolm said...

Witch Girls and Craft is perfect match.

You could play a Witch Girls game in the Mndane world with Craft like characters easy.