MVP of Horror: How Zoe Lister-Jones revises a famous scene from 'Carrie' in 'The Craft: Legacy'

·Senior Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
·6 min read

Warning: This post contains spoilers for The Craft: Legacy.

The Craft: Legacy continues the story that started 24 years ago in Andrew Fleming’s 1996 teen Goth favorite, The Craft. But a key sequence in writer/director Zoe Lister-Jones’s legacy sequel takes its inspiration from an even earlier high school horror classic: Brian De Palma’s 1976 movie version of Stephen King’s Carrie. Early on in Legacy, new girl in town Lily (Cailee Spaeny) has a nightmarish experience on her first day of school when she gets her period in the middle of class. Her classmates’ mocking laughter echoes the cruel taunts hurled at Sissy Spacek’s Carrie White after she has her period in the locker room showers. “I watched Carrie as a reference for sure,” Lister-Jones confirms to Yahoo Entertainment. “It’s so brilliant; that era of genre filmmaking is inspirational and that movie in particular is a classic.”

At the same time, Lister-Jones also took the opportunity to rewrite the legacy of Carrie in a notable way: Both King’s book and De Palma’s movie use Carrie’s humiliation as the inciting incident that turns her female classmates fully against her, culminating in her revenge at the legendary bloody prom. In Legacy, on the other hand, Claire is immediately approached and comforted by the three young women who become her friends and fellow members of an all-new coven: Frankie (Gideon Adlon), Tabby (Lovie Simone) and Lourdes (Zoey Luna). “That’s the catalyzing moment for a larger topic I was interested in exploring,” she explains. “These young women come together and support her at this moment of deep humiliation and vulnerability, which is a theme that carries throughout the movie. These young women don’t use their powers to take each other down, but rather to lift each other up.”

Gideon Adlon, Lovie Simone, Cailee Spaeny and Zoey Luna star in 'The Craft: Legacy' (Photo: Columbia Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection)
Gideon Adlon, Lovie Simone, Cailee Spaeny and Zoey Luna star in The Craft: Legacy. (Photo: Columbia Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection)

That revision isn’t just a corrective to Carrie, but also to the original Craft, where the four heroines — Nancy (Fairuza Balk), Rochelle (Rachel True), Bonnie (Neve Campbell) and Sarah (Robin Tunney) — turn against each other in the second half of the film. “That’s one thing that I definitely wanted to update from the original,” explains Lister-Jones. “Fairuza was such a delicious villain in that film, but I do think that the messages that we put out in popular culture are so influential to the psyches of young people, so I took that responsibility seriously. I wanted to highlight the beauty of female friendship, and also how men can play into that, seeing the ways in which the systems that oppress women can also be very harmful to men.”

Not that Lister-Jones harbors any ill will towards The Craft. The future filmmaker and actress was 14 when the first movie hit theaters, and remembers strongly connecting to Balk and the other characters as a fellow weirdo. “I was an outsider who was bullied a lot, and felt very isolated at that time in my life. For so many of us who were in pain by being othered, it was meaningful to finally see young women who were on the outside being the heroes of a film. What Andrew Fleming did with that movie was really ahead of its time.”

Zoe Lister-Jones directs Cailee Spaeny on the set of 'The Craft: Legacy' (Photo: Rafy Photography/Columbia Pictures)
Zoe Lister-Jones directs Cailee Spaeny on the set of The Craft: Legacy. (Photo: Rafy Photography/Columbia Pictures)

But times change, and she crafted the story for Legacy against the backdrop of real world headlines where female empowerment regularly runs headlong into toxic masculinity, be it on the internet or in the White House. “When I started writing this, it was definitely in response to a climate that felt so brazenly hostile to women — a climate in which a man who was not only accused of sexual assault, but openly bragged about sexual assault could be elected to the highest office in the land. What that must feel like for young women in this country felt so profound to me.”

And the ultimate villain of The Craft: Legacy really is toxic masculinity, embodied in human form by David Duchovny’s Adam Harrison. Introduced as a self-help guru — and the boyfriend of Lily’s mother, Helen (Michelle Monaghan) — he’s ultimately revealed to be the leader of a coven of warlocks all too eager to claim the young witches’ power for their own. Harrison is also quick to turn against any man who seems interested in getting in touch with his feminine side, like, say, the school bully, Timmy (Nicholas Galitzine). He’s the loudest of Lily’s tormentors, at least until she and her coven cast a spell that unlocks a kinder, gentler Timmy. It’s another new twist on a storyline from The Craft, where Nancy’s coven hits the school Lothario (played by Skeet Ulrich) with a whopper of a love spell to cause him to fall head over heels for Sarah.

Nicholas Galitzine as Timmy and Cailee Spaeny as Lily in 'The Craft: Legacy' (Photo: Columbia Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection)
Nicholas Galitzine as Timmy and Cailee Spaeny as Lily in The Craft: Legacy. (Photo: Columbia Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection)

“I wanted to investigate the divine masculine, as well as aspirational models of masculinity,” Lister-Jones says of Timmy’s transformation into a sensitive New Age guy. “I think there’s a new generation of men who are breaking free of some of the constraints that these oppressive systems have been so persistent on placing on them for many centuries. Allyship can go beyond optics, and what that takes; what it takes is for any of us who benefit from systems of oppression to understand how those systems are causing us pain. There’s so much room for growth, if we can start to dig a little deeper in that area.”

Even as Legacy sets itself apart from The Craft in some respects, Lister-Jones also makes it clear that both stories are happening in the same universe. Easter eggs to the previous film are hidden throughout the new one, culminating in a climactic reveal that snaps the title into focus. The director doesn’t want to spoil the twist ending, but suffice it to say the past lives on in the present. “I did write this film with a third one in mind,” she teases of her larger plans for The Craft cinematic universe — plans that potentially include a team-up between the two generations of covens that would be eight times as powerful in fighting the forces that would otherwise hold women back.

“Especially in today's world, the message that I wanted to put out into the universe was that our power is really in celebrating our differences with each other,” Lister-Jones says. “The images that we as women have been fed for so long is that our value lies in our desirability to men, and that that puts an enormous amount of pressure on us to look a certain way. I wanted this film to do what it could to free women from those constraints and celebrate their singularity and show that, when we come together, our power is so great.”

The Craft: Legacy is currently available via on-demand services including FandangoNOW and Amazon.

Watch Rachel True reflecting on her experience as the only Black star of The Craft:

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