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Covenant: Brotherhood of Evil (2006)

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Covenant: Brotherhood of EvilStarring 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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Desolation Review: Campers + Lunatic = Simplicity, But Not Always a Better Product

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DesolationStarring Jaimi Page, Alyshia Ochse, Toby Nichols

Directed by Sam Patton


I’m usually all in when it comes to a psycho in the woods flick, but there was just something about Sam Patton’s Desolation that seemed a bit distant for me…distance…desolation – I’m sure there’s a connection in there somewhere. Either that or I’m suffering from a minor case of sleep-deprivation. Either way, make sure you’ve got your backpack stuffed, cause we’re hitting the timber-lands for this one.

The film focuses on mother and son tandem Abby and Sam, and the tragic notion that Abby’s love and father to her son, has passed away. The absence has been a crippling one, and Abby’s idea of closure is to take her adolescent offspring to the woods where her husband used to love to run and scatter his ashes as a memorial tribute. Abby invites her best friend Jenn along as emotional support, and together all three are planning on making this trip a fitting and dedicatory experience…until the mystery man shows up. Looking like a member of the Ted Kaczynski clan (The Unabomber himself), this creepy fellow seems content to simply watch the threesome, and when he ultimately decides to close the distance, it’ll be a jaunt in the forest that this close-knit group will never forget.

So there you have it – doesn’t beg a long, descriptive, bled-out dissertation – Patton tosses all of his cards on the table in plain view for the audience to scan at their leisure. While the tension is palpable at times, it’s the equivalent of watching someone stumble towards the edge of a cliff, and NEVER tumble over…for a long time – you literally watch them do the drunken two-step near the lip for what seems like an eternity. What I’m getting at is that the movie has the bells and whistles to give white-knucklers something to get amped about, yet it never all seems to come into complete focus, or allow itself to spread out in such a way that you can feel satisfied after the credits roll. If I may harp on the performance-aspect for a few, it basically broke down this way for me: both Abby and Jenn’s characters were well-displayed, making you feel as if you really were watching long-time besties at play. Sam’s character was a bit tough to swallow, as he was the sadder-than-sad kid due to his father’s absence, but JEEZ this kid was a friggin malcontented little jerk – all I can say is “role well-played, young man.”

As we get to our leading transient, kook, outsider – whatever you want to call him: he simply shaved down into a hum-drum personality – no sizzle here, folks. Truly a disappointment for someone who was hoping for an enigmatic nutbag to terrorize our not-so-merry band of backpackers – oh well, Santa isn’t always listening, I guess. Simplicity has its place and time when displaying the picture-perfect lunatic, and before everyone gets a wild hair across their ass because of what I’m saying, all this is was the wish to have THIS PARTICULAR psycho be a bit more colorful – I can still appreciate face-biters like Hannibal Lecter and those of the restrained lunacy set. Overall, Desolation is one of those films that had all the pieces meticulously set in place, like a house of cards…until that drunk friend stumbled into the table, sending everything crumbling down. A one-timer if you can’t find anything else readily available to watch.

  • Film
2.5

Summary

Looking for a little direction way out in the woods? Look elsewhere, because this guide doesn’t have a whole lot to offer.

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User Rating 2.88 (17 votes)
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Children of the Fall Review – This Israeli Slasher Gets Political

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Starring Noa Maiman, Aki Avni, Yafit Shalev, Iftach Ophir, Michael Ironside

Directed by Eitan Gafny

Reviewed out of Utopia 2017


Slashers are a subgenre of horror that are often looked down upon. After all, what can a movie about a killer slaughtering multiple people have to say about, well…anything. Those of us in the community know full well that this is nonsense and that any kind of horror movie can be a jabbing (no pun intended) commentary on society, culture, politics, art, etc… And that’s precisely what Eitan Gafny aims to do with Children of the Fall, one of the few Israeli slashers ever created.

Set on the eve of the Yom Kippur war, the film follows Rachel (Maiman), a young American woman who comes to Israel to join a kibbutz after suffering some serious personal tragedies. Her goal to make aliyah (the return of Jews to Israel) is however hampered by some rather unpleasant encounters with local IDF soldiers and members of the kibbutz. Pushing through, she makes friends with others in the commune and her Zionistic views are only strengthened, although they do not go untested. Once Yom Kippur, one of the holiest holidays in Jewish culture, begins, a killer begins picking off the kibbutz workers one by one in violent and gruesome ways.

Let’s start with what Children of the Fall gets right, okay? As slashers go, it’s actually quite beautiful. There are wonderfully expansive shots that make use of the size and diversity of the kibbutz. The film opens with a beautiful shot of a cow stable, barn, water towers, and miscellaneous outbuildings, all set against a dark and stormy night. The lighting of this scene, and throughout the film, is also very good. I found myself darting my eyes across the screen multiple times throughout the film thinking I’d seen something lurking in the shadows.

The kills, while unoriginal, are very satisfying. Each death is meaty, bloody, and doesn’t feel rushed. In fact, the camera has no problems lingering during each kill, allowing us to appreciate the practical FX and copious amounts of blood used. And if you believe that a slasher needs to have nudity, you won’t be disappointed.

The acting is middle of the road. Maiman is serviceable as Rachel but the real star of the film is Aki Avni as “Yaron”. His range of emotion is fantastic, from warm and welcoming to Rachel when she arrives to emoting grief and pain during his Yom Kippur announcement where we learn that he was a child in a concentration camp. The rest of the cast are perfectly acceptable as fodder for the killer.

So where does Children of the Fall stray? Let’s start with the most obvious part: the runtime. Clocking in at nearly two hours, that’s about 30 minutes too much. The film could easily have gone through some hefty editing without affecting the final product. Instead, we have a movie that feels elongated when unnecessary.

Additionally, the societal and political commentary is very in-your-face but the film can’t seem to make up its mind as to what it’s trying to get across. Natalia, a Belarussian kibbutz worker, raises the concept of Israeli racism, misogyny, and xenophobia, her hostility unabashedly pouring out in the midst of IDF soldiers, locals, other kibbutz members, and more. Is there validity to what she’s saying? Undoubtedly. But there is also validity to Rachel’s retorts, which include calling this woman out on her own vitriolic views. This back-and-forth mentality frustratingly prevails throughout the film, as though Gafny was unwilling to just commit.

The dialogue is also quite painful at times, although I attribute this to difficulties with translating from Hebrew to English. Even the best English speakers in Israel don’t get everything perfect and the little quirks here and there, while charming, are quite detracting. Also, why is this movie trying to tell me that Robert Smith of The Cure is a character here? While amusing, it makes absolutely no sense nor does it fit in Smith’s own timeline.

Had this film gone through a couple rounds of editing, I feel like we’d have gotten something really great. Eitan Gafny is definitely someone that we need to be watching very closely.

  • Children of the Fall
2.5

Summary

While Children of the Fall has a lot going for it, it has just as much working against it. Overly long, you’ll get a really great slasher that is bogged down by uneven social and political commentary.

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User Rating 3.24 (21 votes)
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Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club Review – A Charming, Quirky Dark Drama

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Starring Keren Mor, Yiftach Klein, Hana Laslo, Ania Bukstein

Directed by Guilhad Emilio Schenker

Reviewed out of Utopia 2017


One of the great joys I have in being a horror fan is seeing horror films from around the world. I view these films as a chance to learn about the fears, folklore, mythology, and lore of varied cultures. Films like Inugami, Frontier(s), [REC], and the like transport me across oceans and into places I might never get the chance to visit otherwise. Hence my interest in the Israeli dark drama Madam Yankeolva’s Fine Literature Club, the feature debut of director Guilhad Emilio Schenker.

The film follows Sophie (Mor), a member of a strange, female-only reading club – who believes that love is a lie – that we soon realize brings men into its midst only to have them killed. The woman who brings the most fitting man is awarded a trophy for her fine taste. When a member reaches 100 trophies, they get to enter a coveted and highly esteemed upper echelon of the reading club’s society, one that includes lavish surroundings and an almost regal lifestyle. Sophie starts the film earning her 99th trophy but her plans towards the all-important 100th trophy are thrown askew when she ends up developing feelings for her latest victim. She must now decide if the mission that has been so dear to her for so many years is something she wishes to see through or if she’s ready to take a huge risk and fall in love.

Now, if this seems like a strange story for a horror website, I don’t disagree. Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club is certainly not your traditional horror film. In fact, I’d liken it far more to the more playful works of Tim Burton and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s The City of Lost Children than something more grotesque and violent. It’s very playful and quite charming, although there are times when the presentation feels amateurish and certain moments when things become wildly unbelievable. That being said, the film aims to be a dark fairy tale come to life, so a healthy amount of “I’m okay letting that go” will not go unappreciated.

The film is shot in such a way that it’s very soft around the edges, almost like we’re constantly in a dream. This is aided by composer Tal Yardeni’s score, which obviously takes inspiration from Danny Elfman, playfully weaving its way through each scene.

While there’s a lot to love about Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club, it’s certainly not a flawless film. As mentioned previously, there are times when it feels quite amateurish, as though no one thought to look at how a scene is being filmed and say, “People, this isn’t how things would go down. We can have fun but this just doesn’t sit right.” Additionally, the story moves very quickly. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve heard of love at first sight. But that’s not how this story plays out, so the wildly strong feelings that develop between Sophie and Yosef (Klein) seem strangely out of place.

All things being what they are, Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club is a charming film that can definitely appeal to horror fans if they’re willing to stretch their boundaries to include films that have absolutely no scares or gore but imply quite a horrific situation.

  • Madam Yankelova's Fine Literature Club
3.5

Summary

Charming, quirky, but not without its faults, Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club is a dark drama for fans of Tim Burton and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Don’t go in expecting any scares or gore. Rather, anticipate a fairy tale that might be just a bit too gruesome in tone for young children.

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User Rating 3.45 (20 votes)
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