September 10, 2006

Movie Review: The Covenant

This could just as easily have been called Supernatural 90210. If your thing is watching twenty-somethings, playing high school kids, walking around with an air of self importance, while ultimately doing nothing, then this is the movie for you. I went in with low expectations, and even they were not met.

The Covenant opens with an explanation that doesn't explain anything. I knew this was a bad sign. When a movie has a text opening that speaks of ancient power of unknown origins, you must have a clue that you are about to witness a bad movie. I mean, come on, make something up, you did for the rest of the movie, please feel free to fill in the holes, not dig them.

The story concerns a group of five families that came to America to escape the persecution of witches, and were among the founders of Ipswich. One of the families was thought to have been killed off during the Salem Witch Hunts. Fast forward to the present day, the sons of the remaining four families are the coolest kids in school, anybody who is anybody wants to be friends with them. Well, they show up at the summer blow off party before school starts, and in the span of five minutes, woo the new girl on campus, meet the new guy on campus, and lead the police on a high speed off road chase off a cliff.

The story moves along, going nowhere, not really revealing anything. It eventually comes out that the new guy is the long thought lost fifth son of Ipswich, returning to take everyone's power for himself. That pretty much somes it up.

The Covenant is filled with silly posturing and a faux goth edge. The approach to the material, and the way it plays out would have been much better suited to a television series. For as much information that is shared, it would have made a fine pilot. There is enough potential in this to last a few seasons, instead we get a mashed up film plot that goes nowhere.

Characters appear and disappear for no reason. There are issues between the four that are never paid off on, and don't even get me started on the last lines of the movie. It is another one of those movies where it is raining almost all the time, and the rest of the time everything is wet with leaves being blown around in the darkness, which makes the hero's convertible, almost always with the top down, a little silly. There is nothing scary, or creepy here. There is very little continuity from scene to scene, and no reason at all to care about any character, at all.

To say The Covenant even has a story would be giving it too much credit. It floats along attempting to survive on the brooding boys as they wander semi-nakedly through the locker rooms, or striking poses at the local bar, while the girls chat about the oddities sitting around their dorm room in their underwear. During the scenes of the stars in the hallways around the school, you have to wonder if there is anyone else there, the only time you see anyone else is in the few classroom scenes and the big party at the beginning. There must not have been much in the budget for extras.

On occasion bits of a story will begin to appear, but they are abandoned at the earliest moment, in favor of the aforementioned brooding. Sure, the teens in the audience will have plenty to look at while not being challenged, so in that respect it is successful.

The acting is awful. The cast of unknowns do their job by standing around reciting some awful lines of expositionary dialogue. Steven Strait is the hero, Caleb, leader of the four sons, and he faces off with Sebastian Stan, as Chase. Amazing amount of alliteration in those names, think it was on purpise? Laura Ramsey plays the good girl love interest, Sarah, who manages to find her way into an assortment of trouble.

Renny Harlin directed the film, and it is among his weaker efforts. The guy has never been an A list director, but he has had his share of entertaining flicks over the years, this is not one of them. To his credit, he does succeed at making some of the scenes look good by using some good angles, but it is not enough here. The other half of the creative is JS Cardone, the writer. A few years back, he made the entertaining vampire road flick, The Forsaken, but he does not have any luck here, giving a script that has no story, one liners that are more laugh inducing than anything else. Better luck next time.

On the plus side, they do a good job of giving the film its wet gothic look, and there is some nice heavy music used, including the remixed "More Human Than Human" from White Zombie over the opening credits. Also, I admit to being slightly creeped out by the spider sequence, I never cared for spiders. Then there is Laura Ramsey, who is quite fetching.

Bottomline. The Lost Boys + The Craft - originality - cleverness = The Covenant. If this was a television show, I may have been inclined to watch another week or two, but being a feature film, I cannot recommend this in the least. In the end I was bored by the lack of anything cohesive, and disappointed by the non-finish and the disrespect that many characters are dealt by the script.

Not Recommended.
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