Today on Deadsites: The official site for The Craft, a film about disenfranchised high school teens who change their fortunes with witchcraft.
In more direct terms: Fairuza Balk, hamming it up as a black magician. So of course I loved it.
The Craft came out in 1996, as did its website. It had the trappings of a Tripod fanpage, with a simple design, crude graphics and an absolutely needless amount of scrollbars. That was the charm!
Modern movie sites seem like team efforts from dozens of geniuses who wear super expensive glasses. In contrast, The Craft’s felt like the work of one sixteen-year-old who holed up in her basement with a malfunctioning laptop.
On a stormy night too, I bet.
A mile-long cast page tells us about the characters and the people who played them, and also reminds me of my late ‘90s crushes on Fairuza and Neve. Which led me to see The Craft way more times than was really healthy.
While I’m on the subject, Fairuza Balk is one of the only celebs I follow on Twitter. Not once have I regretted it. She wishes me a happy holiday even when it’s a holiday I’ve never heard of. If there are no holidays, she just tells me to have a great Wednesday. Sometimes she asks me if I know anything about praying mantises.
(And if you need another reason to be a Balk fan, I’ll remind you that she starred with Tim Curry in The Worst Witch. Toss in her appearance on Celebrity Ghost Stories, and Fairuza Balk has had the best career out of anyone who has done anything ever.)
PS: As “kidneyboy” pointed out in the comments, Neve Campbell’s bio includes a neat bit of trivia. It says she’s shooting a new Wes Craven film called Scary Movie, which would later become famous under a different title… Scream!
Next were pages for images and videos. (They called the videos “Visions,” to keep with the witchy theme.) None of the downloads still work, but I guess that’s just as well. Remembering what ‘90s Quicktimes were like, the videos were probably less than two inches wide.
There were also two “Exclusive” pages, exploring some of The Craft’s special effects. These are cooler than they seem, since both were written by the movie’s digital effects artists. They’re sort of like DVD special features in webpage form.
The longer article details the scene where Balk and Campbell were surrounded by CG butterflies. The shorter article explains how they made Balk’s fingers turn into snakes. In a perfect world, that would’ve been the longer article.
Okay, now we’re getting to the cheesy goodies. As I pored over the site, I frequently noticed (but promptly ignored) a series of identical “scroll” graphics, which were on every other page in random spots. I figured they were for decorative purposes only, but as it turned out, they had a reason to be there!
Whenever you saw a scroll, you could click it to discover a “spell” that would grant you “mystical abilities.” In reality, all this did was award access to a contest submission form, where rookie witches could enter to win t-shirts and soundtrack CDs. (And hey, no matter what you thought of the movie, at least admit that it had a great soundtrack.)
I couldn’t let that go without a full investigation:
Ah, there we are. Hidden in plain sight on the “Crew” page was one of the elusive scrolls. To my delight, it still linked to the stupid spell page!
Doesn’t that graphic remind you of The Adventure of Link?
Remembering that I needed to mix the frog, wand and flask, I marched forward, ready to enter a t-shirt contest that ended in 1996.
Aw, man, the submission form was broken. 🙁
“You have failed to cast a spell?” Fuck you, website! I mixed the frog with the wand and flask, just like you said to.
And to be safe, I then made every other possible combination from the five ingredients. Nothing worked. I was especially disappointed when my snake-candle-frog brew brought no results. Mixing those three things seemed like it should’ve done something.
Those were the official rules. Look close and you’ll notice that they arbitrarily decided who would win t-shirts and who would win soundtrack CDs. That seems… odd.
“Mel Norken from Winnsboro. Sounds like a ‘soundtrack’ to me!”
Perhaps the best thing about The Craft’s website was its still-active download for a goofy desktop theme. Here it is, if you want it.
I don’t know if it’s still possible to install it, but you can at least sort through the contents. (Folder icons that look like crushed spiders, plus a “start-up” audio file that sounds like a Star Trek door. There’s also a desktop background, which is what you’re looking at up above. It loses a little something when you stretch it to four times that size, though.)
If you’ve never seen The Craft, here’s the trailer. Appropriately grainy!
Christ, after watching that, 1996 seems like fifty thousand years ago.