Starring Edward Furlong, Michael Madsen, Chandra West
Directed by Michael Bafaro
What are the odds that two entirely different movies called The Covenant would come out at roughly the exact same time? This direct-to-DVD Covenant – fully titled The Covenant: Brotherhood of Evil, possibly to avoid confusion even though the “Brotherhood of Evil” addition sound more befitting the other film – actually does the impossible by managing to be a worse film than Renny Harlin’s theatrically released “Lost Boys for the MySpace generation” suckfest. At least that Covenant wasn’t as highly derivative and dreadfully dull from beginning to end as this Covenant was.
Young David Goodman (Edward Furlong, who has definitely seen better days) experiences the worst day of his life. He first gets passed over for the promotion he rightfully deserved and then he’s blinded after getting spray painted in the face by a graffiti vandal who apparently only targets tire rims. Things take a turn for the supernatural when David is contacted by the mysterious Guillermo List (Michael Madsen, looking like he’s ready for the starring role in a Judd Nelson biopic). List sends his nameless henchman/driver to fetch David so that he can ask like questions like, “What would you give up in order to get your sight back?” David replies, “Anything.” The devil likes that answer. David is thenpresented with a demonic cane and from there…
Ever see The Devil’s Advocate with Keanu Reeves? Ever see any of those movies or TV shows where someone acquires a cursed object that causes the person to undergo a personality makeover for the worst? If you can answer “yes” to both those questions then you have absolutely no reason to watch The Covenant: Brotherhood of Evil because you’ve already seen this movie and seen it done much better.
It only takes about five minutes for it to become painfully obvious that Edward Furlong was totally miscast in the lead role. He’s not the least bit convincing as the skillful businessman he’s supposed to be and his “Woe is me, I’m blind” act comes across more like a crabby guy that just quit smoking cold turkey and is experiencing severe nicotine withdrawal. Seeing him strut around in a business suit, it was amazing how much Furlong reminded me of Steven Seagal: frumpy looking, tired eyes, big black clothing trying to mask his newfound girth. He even uses an identical acting style to Seagal: soft-spoken, sometimes outright mumbling his lines, always with the same inflexion in his voice. His performance proves especially troublesome when he begins his turn to the dark side, becoming a shark in the boardroom and a devil with the ladies. I honestly couldn’t tell the difference between the before and after David Goodman other than the seduced by evil David Goodman being a bit more surly and, of course, a murderer. To call Furlong’s performance here “flat” would be an understatement and it totally kills any chance that the movie might have had.
Then again, I’m not entirely sure this movie ever had much of a chance. It plays like an especially lame episode of either the new “Outer Limits” or the new “Twilight Zone” – take your pick – that got more than an extra half-hour of boredom tacked onto it. Pretty much the entire midsection of this movie feels like it’s just spinning its wheels until it finally gets to the obvious climax.
White Noise‘s Chandra West is cast as David’s way-too-hot-for-this-lout wife, Lisa. Her role for the first half of the film is composed mostly of seeing and hearing strange things around the house, then walking slowly throughout the house trying to find the source of the strange thing she just saw or heard. The second half of the movie has her having figured out that the cane is the source of whatever it is that’s happening to her husband and trying to track down the truth, which turns out to be a much wider conspiracy. Everyone that assists her in this quest winds up dead. Her pursuit of the truth takes up a whole lot of time and results in a whole lot of nothing. Again, the movie’s just spinning its wheels.
Now this is supposed to be a horror movie, although I suspect everyone involved would prefer the term “supernatural thriller.” Call it horror or call it a thriller – doesn’t matter since it fails on both counts. One moment David’s having what may or may not be a dream and then all of a sudden he finds himself being attacked by the what looks a lot like those demon tree root dryad things from Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, and then – POOF! He’s suddenly awake in bed having rough sex with the wife. Yep, it’s one of those “characters having random nonsensical hallucinations” types of supernatural horror thrillers.
One look at that demonic walking cane and it’s hard to believe this movie wasn’t intended to be a comedy. A walking cane with the devil’s head carved on it that looks like a Halloween store prop. You’d think the members of a global satanic cabal would carry around something a little less likely to draw attention to themselves like a cane with a great big devil head on it. Why not just wear T-shirts that say “I’m with Satan!” Making it even sillier are the uber cheesy moments of CGI used to bring that devil head to life.
Especially silly is the opening prologue that explains how this Guillermo List acquired the cane. Aside from Michael Madsen looking far too modern for someone walking around WW2 era Europe, you’d think an artifact of such unholy power would be under heavier guard than a box in a room inside a church protected by a lone priest. Well, he did lock the door to that room, so I guess that counts.
The demonic walking cane’s power also causes David to begin seeing and hearing things like a drunk would – wavy, blurred vision and distorted voices and sounds. Well, I guess that’s what happens when Michael Madsen supplies you with your evil.
And I must say that I never imagined the final showdown between good and evil as predicted in the Book of Revelations would come down to Edward Furlong and Michael Madsen flying around in a whirlwind of light while having a tug-of-war with Ozzy Osbourne’s walking stick. But then even that finale doesn’t matter since the real ending completely nullifies most of what we’d just seen and leaves you wondering what exactly did happen during that climax. I suspect most viewers won’t even make it to the ending, having turned this thing off out of sheer boredom long before.
1/2 out of 5
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Prodigy Review – This Kid Is Killer
Written and directed by Alex Haughey and Brian Vidal
From the minds of Alex Haughey and Brian Vidal, Prodigy could have easily debuted as a stage play instead of an intimate sci-fi horror film delivered straight to your television. Told with a confident grasp, the story unfolds in only one location with two characters responsible for carrying the entire narrative. Good performances, sure-handed directing, and a solid script highlighting tense moments make the claustrophobic setting seem much bigger in scope. A little telekinesis thrown in to good effect and a creepy killer kid don’t hurt the momentum either.
Under constant surveillance at a remote black site, an aging psychologist named Fonda (Neil) is tasked with assessing a dangerous young girl called Ellie (Liles), who is highly intelligent and possesses supernatural powers. Fonda attempts to inject some humanity into Ellie, but she is cold and calculating and seems to be toying with him at times and the onlookers watching from behind the glass. The back-and-forth between both characters is competitive and often riveting, with Ellie slowly revealing her abilities to her wide-eyed new audience. Wrapped up in a familiar setup, the decision to study or dissect this meta kid is the central question of Prodigy; but the execution of a simple premise is what keeps the story afloat.
On a very small scale, Haughey and Vidal make the setting feel cinematic with crisp images and smart shot selections that help maintain the tension. There’s a strong backbone in place that allows both actors to bounce off of each other in a well-choreographed mental dance as the dangerous game they’re playing begins to unravel.
Several scenes where Elle demonstrates her powers are the standouts in Prodigy with chairs and tables flying and glass breaking to great effect. These sequences diffuse some of the tension for a moment, only to fully explode late in the film when Elle’s emotions unleash. It’s only then that there has been any kind of breakthrough that could possibly help to save her life.
That gets to the heart of the real question posed in Prodigy: Is an extraordinary life still worth saving if it threatens ordinary lives in the process? Also, does the fact that this potential weapon is housed inside the body and mind of a young, lonely girl make a difference to whether it should survive? These questions and how they’re answered make Prodigy a micro-budget standout in the indie horror genre well worth taking the time to rent this weekend if you’re not planning on attending a St. Patrick’s Day parade somewhere.
Prodigy is now available to on iTunes, Amazon, and other On Demand platforms.
The questions raised and how they’re answered make Prodigy a micro-budget standout in the indie horror genre well worth taking the time to rent this weekend if you’re not planning on attending a St. Patrick’s Day parade somewhere.
Cold Hell (Die Hölle) Review – Giallo Terror Invades Vienna
Starring Violetta Schurawlow, Tobias Moretti, Sammy Sheik
Written by Martin Ambrosch
Directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky
I have a serious soft spot in my horror-loving heart for serial killer films. Movies like Seven, The Silence of the Lambs, The Crimson Rivers, and the like draw me in with their cat-and-mouse mentality. Couple those kinds of movies with non-US settings and I’m 100% hooked. So when I was introduced to Die Hölle (aka Cold Hell), which just started streaming on Shudder, I didn’t hesitate to enter this giallo-inspired thriller.
Cold Hell follows Özge Dugruol (Schurawlow), a Turkish taxi driver in Vienna who clearly lives a strained, almost broken life. The fares she picks up verbally abuse her, the Thai boxing gym where she lets go of her anger has banned her after a violent sparring incident, and her family has its own fair share of problems, including infidelity, lack of responsibility, and painful memories of early years.
One night, after coming home from a long shift, Özge opens the window in her bathroom only to see across the way into the home of another woman who is lying on the ground, flayed and burnt, her dead eyes staring at Özge. Stunned into shock, she can only look on before realizing that the man responsible for this woman’s death is standing in the shadows, looking at her. So begins Özge’s journey of terror as this killer makes it his mission to find and end her life.
Cold Hell has an interesting juxtaposition running throughout the film where cinematographer Benedict Neuenfels’ gorgeous visuals are used to highlight the near-squalor and seedy underbelly of Viennese life that Özge lives in. Each scene is bathed in vibrant colors, streetlight reds and neon greens painting the frames. Marius Ruhland, who composed Ruzowitzky’s Academy Award-winning film The Counterfeiters, lends beautiful and thrilling music that knows when to coil up and provide tension before exploding to mirror the chaotic frenzy of the on-screen events.
A direct commentary on religion’s antiquated view of the place and purpose of women, Cold Hell doesn’t shy away from making nearly everyone in this movie a flawed character. People who were unlikable become understandable once the breadth of their circumstances becomes more clear, as is the case with detective Christian Steiner (Moretti), who originally treats Özge with an almost xenophobic attitude only for us to later see that he cares for his dementia-ridden father. While not excusing his previous behaviors, such a revelation gives his irritation and frustration a more justifiable foundation.
When the action strikes, we are treated to breathtaking car chases, blood splashing across the screen, and believable reactions. The characters in this film get hurt and they show it, limping painfully with their cuts and bruises open for the world to see.
The film is certainly not flawless. Some characters feel shoe-horned in and there are rather lengthly segments where the film comes to a crawl. However, the engaging and nuanced performance from Schurawlow easily kept me glued to the screen.
With beautiful music and gorgeous visuals, Cold Hell is an engaging, albeit slow burn, serial killer thriller. This is one film that should not be missed.
Butcher The Bakers Review – Even The Grim Reaper’s Got His Slow Days
Starring Sean Walsh, Ryan Matthew Ziggler, Mike Behrens
Directed by Tyler Amm
When someone passes away, all anyone ever thinks of is the one that’s been lost – no one, and I mean NO ONE gives any consideration to the one responsible for reeling in those wayward souls…I’m talking about The Grim Reaper, and what happens when he hits a bit of a dry spell. Let’s cross on over to the other side and give a look at Tyler Amm’s Butcher The Bakers.
This horror/comedy centers around a couple of slackers (Walsh and Ziggler) who are both whiling away the hours working at a bakery, and their motivation is about as stagnant as frozen tree sap. One day the hapless duo are chosen to perform quite a Herculean task – they’ve got to prevent a recently “discharged” reaper named Dragomir (Behrens) from mass-collecting souls so he can open a portal to another world…yeah, I’m not shitting you. Seems ol’ Drago liked to snag some undocumented souls which didn’t put him in the best graces with the Human Resources department…or whomever the hell these guys report to in the afterlife. His actions have cause him to be ostracized, basically, and this is his way of getting back at the powers-that-be, if you will. Bottom line is this: the reaper’s coming-a-callin’ and he’s not planning on making this trip back and forth solo, if you know what I’m sayin.
The film, acting as part horror-fest and buddy-comedy, hits the mark on more than a few occasions, but falls flat on others – it’s all in the eye of the interpreter. There are some moments of beautifully-shot brutality, and the laughs are both subtle and pronounced, but if you’re not one of those people who dig a meshing of the two styles, you could potentially want to hit the kill-switch on this one in the early stages. Crisp editing and some seriously nifty camera-work are definite pluses, and while the acting could be a bit more stable, it’s adequate enough to support the presentation that it’s sandwiched into. Overall, I could see some horror aficionados giving this a singular peek just to break up the monotony of all that’s out there in the scope right now, but there’s not a whole lot more to go on with this one – if you’re in the mood to dissolve 94 minutes of your time, press play on this one.
Horror comedies are far too hit or miss in this day and age, and while this movie tries to resuscitate the dead, it eventually gets dragged off kicking and screaming.
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