As a female who was 14 in 1996, I consider virtually every day of the year the right time to watch The Craft. Imagine my glee then to discover that way back when Fairuza Balk was pulling her hair and Robin Tunney was rocking a strawberry blond wig, a small studio financed a quickie Catholic schoolgirls-turn-to-Satan movie starring Clea DuVall and Jennifer Rubin as a nun in a fanny pack.
A NUN IN A FANNY PACK!
Quick Plot: After a black mass-y prologue, we’re sent to the present (or really 1990s version of it) where a girls' Catholic school is about to relax for Easter break. A gaggle of students stay behind due to the typically Harry Potter-esque reasons of being orphans, having rich parents that don’t want them around, or trying to avoid abusive dads that have birthed a very dangerous habit of masturbating during confessional.
Said girl with the habit of touching herself during Lord's Prayers is Jamie, played with full panache by an often naked Sheeri Rappaport. As you might guess, it’s Jamie, the girl who performs a topless striptease in front of her window to an audience of uniformly attractive construction workers who ends up falling hardest for Lucifer’s charms. If you’d like, we can henceforth refer to this character as Fairuza Two.
Rooming with Fairuza Two is a goody two-shoes Stanford hopeful named Faith (or Robin Tunney Two Point Oh, if you’d prefer) who has the handy skill of reading fluent Latin and the inconvenient drawback of being a fairly terrible actress, at least during the apparent two-week shoot time of Little Witches. Like me, actress Mimi Rose speaks too loudly, which, as you might expect, IS QUITE ANNOYING (now I know how everyone I converse with feels; sorry guys). She’s also taxed with the dullest role and paired with a hunky (at first) virginal (see?) love interest whose delivery of dialogue rivals Siri on Valium.
Once Fairuza Two and the remaining students discover a book of spells in a hidden lair, the girls spend some montages preparing to summon Satan or gain knowledge or do something that involves naughtiness. The details are fuzzy, but you can count on a few naked teenagers, some deep demon voiceovers, and a not-that-epic-at-all showdown between the screechy Faith and funtime Jamie.
Directed by Jane Simpson, Little Witches is not a particularly good movie, but if IMDB's 2-week product claim is correct, then it certainly could have been worse. There’s plenty of muted sleaze to keep things somewhat interesting, plus bonus supporting turns by a few genre gems. It doesn’t have a toilet bowl full of snakes on the OTHER witchy thriller of 1996, but it’s nice to know there’s another one.
Rappaport really does do her damnest to keep her scenes alive. When she’s paired with capable costars (including an always welcome Clea DuVall), Little Witches can appear to be a decent movie. When she’s paired with, well, Mimi Rose, at least she keeps things interesting
The presence of the late, great Zelda Rubinstein is always welcome. The waste of her time is not.
The trick to fishing is to say three Hail Marys before throwing the line in the water
The trick to not being killed by a demon is to enact stricter supervision over troubled teenagers
The trick to surviving a Good Friday black mass is to shove a Eucharist down the chanters’ throats with all the fervor of Kristy Swanson at the finale of Flowers In the Attic
Hey, for a 90 minute instant watch, Little Witches offers some goofy 90s charm. It doesn’t quite have the nerve to revel in its sleaziness, but there’s still enough to go around, especially if you put it next to the far less fun 5ive Girls. Those who enjoy this decade’s horror output will chuckle at some of the nostalgia, although looking at Little Witches now, it’s hard not to think of it as a pre-Asylum adaptation of the funner, more expensive The Craft. Then again, a cheap quickie version of The Craft costarring Clea DuVall and, in case I haven’t mentioned it, Jennifer Rubin as a nun with a fanny pack is kind of something special, wouldn’t you say?