Directed by Renny Harlin
Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
What is it about PG-13 horror that makes many of us get an eye twitch? It could be the total lack of gore and sex. The overuse of musical jump scares may be another culprit. Some may put their money on the absence of a deep story. If any of those were your reasons, then it is this reviewer’s pleasure to introduce all of them in one neat little package called The Covenant.
For 300 years four families have kept a secret from the world around them. Every generation the families produce males with special abilities that must be used wisely as they are tied to the life force of each warlock. The misuse of these powers leads to great temptation and dramatic aging. These four boys may have a hard time with moderation because a long lost fifth family has returned for revenge.
Not a bad idea for a film. The potential for feuding, spells, and character development is extreme when dealing with the occult and teens. But somewhere along the trail the script took a wrong turn into cut & paste land. Nowhere in the 97 minutes of movie does The Covenant attempt to break even the smallest mold that plagues many PG-13 horror movies. Hell, the damn thing doesn’t even try to have a wild side.
Out of the four young men blessed with the Power, the audience only really gets to see three of them. The fourth member, Tyler, shows up for maybe five minutes all together to speak a few lines of dialogue. His role never sees a bit of action, let alone screen time. Why even bother with him? Next on the useless list is long-haired Pogue (Taylor Kitsch), who loves to wear leather and ride a motorcycle. He gets about double the screen time as Tyler but ends up just as boring and interchangeable with the exception that he has a girlfriend.
Now for the heavy hitters of The Covenant: Reid (Toby Hemingway) is the bad boy of the group. He loves to have fun and enjoys being competitive. It would seem that he also likes dressing just like a certain blonde-haired asshole from the Harry Potter series. You couldn’t get Draco Malfoy so you just made a copy, eh? He even gets this great line of dialogue, “Harry Potter can kiss my ass!” Hmmm, there is something ironic about that; could it be because the Potter franchise can entertain universally with a PG rating and has a much loved following whereas The Covenant can be quickly dismissed as another abortion?
Finally we come Caleb (Steven Strait). Though he is the star of the feature, there is nothing that actually sets him apart from all the other cardboard characters aside from a better wardrobe. Caleb is about to hit his 18th birthday, when he will ascend to a new level of Warlock-dom. His abilities will be greater and he will have to make wiser decisions unless he wishes to end up like his father.
Speaking of power abuse, we never really get to see it affect our young wizards. One look at Caleb’s father lets the audience know what awaits them, but even after several occasions when the boys manifest their powers for stupid things like fetching books that are right next to them or blowing skirts up, they never seem to age one bit. The entire breakdown of usage-to-aging never gets explored or illustrated like many other aspects of the film.
Once things get moving as a rival warlock comes to the area, one would expect the story and characters to become much more interesting. That … never happens. Each person stays and acts the same through the entire affair. No one learns from the experiences, and it becomes more apparent that this film has one really tight target audience: women under 18. It boils down to pretty boys fighting each other in expensive suits, pretty boys getting naked, and pretty boys driving nice vehicles. Anything in that group for your standard straight guy? The Craft for boys this is not.
The Covenant is like the great imitator. It wants to have King’s New England atmosphere but overdoes it with constantly moody shots and strangely empty hallways of a dormitory. The final battle scene tries to be Dragonball Z and nearly succeeds with the crazy jelly ball fight and tacky one-liners but ends with the typical explosion and no payoff. And it’s a good thing we have Renny Harlin’s commentary track to point out the CGI shots to us since they are so hard to spot.
With that said, it is time to move on to the special features, which are less than numerous. There is a commentary track with director Renny Harlin and one behind-the-scenes featurette. Not much to work with here, is there?
The commentary is basically Renny pointing out CGI shots for us and making sure we know that a studio set usually only has three walls because they are filming where the fourth wall should be. Thank you, Renny!! For years I had thought studios spent money to build things that would never be shot! Mr. Harlin is very proud of this film, for what reason I am not sure. It did bring in the bucks when it was dumped in theatres during the slow end of summer, but is that really something to be proud of?
Breaking the Silence: Exposing The Covenant is a short featurette full of cast interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. The audience gets a good look at the high-wire effects used frequently in the film, and everyone seems excited about what they were making, but did they see the final product? Did anyone in the cast even stand up and say, “Is the movie-goer going to give a rat’s ass about our characters? We seem pretty wooden and generic.” I am surprised that the warlocks themselves didn’t question why they were throwing balls of jelly at each other for the thrilling final standoff.
The Covenant is not like taking candy from a baby or any other cheesy line used during the climax. The movie is not as easy as pie or even as delicious. It does however make us its “Wi-otch” by taking time out of our lives that we will never get back. In 97 minutes not one ounce of emotion or connection makes its way to the reviewer. The dull/tame characters and overly fake atmosphere never lead up to anything more than unanswered questions. Remember, though, if you blow up a barn, the cops won’t be the least bit concerned about questioning you. I guess even the police in this film knew not to bother with The Covenant. It is just not worth the time.
Audio commentary with director Renny Harlin
Breaking the Silence: Exposing The Covenant featurette
1/2 out of 5
1 1/2 out of 5
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