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Reimagining ‘The Craft’ for a new batch of aspiring witches

Last Updated Oct 27, 2020 at 3:38 pm EST

This image released by Sony Pictures shows, from left, Lovie Simone, Zoey Luna, Cailee Spaeny and Gideon Adlon in a scene from "The Craft: Legacy." (Columbia Pictures/Sony via AP)

LOS ANGELES — “The Craft” holds a special place in the hearts of older millennial and younger Gen-X women. With its alternative soundtrack and goth looks, the 1996 film starring Robin Tunney, Fairuza Balk, Rachel True and Neve Campbell was a modest box office hit that became a sleepover staple and rite of passage for coven-curious teens.

Director Zoe Lister-Jones was one of them. She remembered watching it at a sleepover as a high school freshman in Brooklyn with a newly shaved head. So it wasn’t surprising when the horror maestros at Blumhouse, the shop behind everything from “Get Out” to “Happy Death Day,” called her two years ago to pitch a reimagining for a new generation.

“I tapped into the teenage girl who is still very much present inside of me and came up with a take and got the gig,” Lister-Jones said. “There is something pretty timeless about the experience of young women at such a crucial turning point in their lives and the sort of discoveries that they make at that time.”

Her version, “The Craft: Legacy” (on VOD Wednesday), has nods to the ’90s fashion and music, including an Alanis Morrissette song right off the bat, but it has been otherwise fully designed for Generation Z from its PG-13 rating and themes to its up-and-coming cast: Cailee Spaeny, Gideon Adlon, Lovie Simone and Zoey Luna. And no, none of the four leads were born when the original came out and only one had seen it before (Adlon).

“When I was 14, everyone was obsessed with the ’90s,” said Adlon, 23. “We were watching ‘The Virgin Suicides’ and ‘The Craft’ and ‘Thirteen.’”

The others quickly became fans, though.

“I was like ‘Oh my God, this is the world I need to be in,’” Simone said. “I’m a weirdo too! Cast me!”

The first film dealt with hot-button topics from suicide and cutting to racism. But it also pitted the girls against one another in the end. Lister-Jones decided to go the opposite route.

“I really love seeing women villains in film and television, but I wanted this to be a story of women supporting each other and uplifting each other rather than turning on each other,” Lister-Jones said.

It was a sticking point for Adlon, too.

“I love the original, we all love the original, it’s a classic, but it’s not really the coven working together at the end. It’s them against each other,” Adlon said. “And I don’t think we ever need to see women tearing women down, especially now.”

Lister-Jones also decided that her version needed to have a trans character.

“It was just essential for me to have a trans witch,” she said. “I don’t think that there is a world where feminism can exist where trans narratives are not included.”

She worked with GLAAD to develop the character, who she also thought should be Latinix, and seek out candidates. Over 200 submitted and Luna, who was featured in a segment of HBO’s “15: A Quinceañera,” stood out.

“I grew up going to the local abandoned asylum and played the Ouija board,” Luna said. “I’ve always been a little witchy weirdo.”

The women all formed a coven-like bond with each other that continues to this day on a text chain. Spaeny and Adlon had already known each other for years (they met at both of their first red carpet appearances), but the four became fast friends on the shoot last year, getting groceries, doing yoga, having Luna read their astrology charts and exploring most of the occult shops in Toronto. They also all worshiped Lister-Jones, who made the set feel safe and collaborative.

“It felt like a no-brainer to pass this reimagining to a woman,” Spaeny said. “And she did such a good job of making sure so many of the heads of each department were women as well.”

Simone said it felt like, “working with your cooler big sister who has her life down pat. And I loved looking at Zoe’s outfits every single day on set.”

Lister-Jones can hardly believe that this time last year they were filming “The Craft: Legacy.” She finished the picture in quarantine, which, she said was “an interesting challenge” but now is excited that it’s finally going to be available to the world just before Halloween with an audience-friendly rating this time too.

“I want this film to reach as many people as possible. And (the rating) does really open our audience up to young people who I think could really use some hope at this moment in the world,” Lister-Jones said. “I hope that I just can instil some of that in them and also, you know, give them some Halloween plans.”

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Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr

Lindsey Bahr, The Associated Press