Before we go any further let’s just get one thing straight, The Covenant is a film that will only appeal to certain stereotypes of viewers; ones who like their film’s woefully shit, ones who like their films full of young men’s bare asses and, perhaps more worryingly, both audiences combined.
Renny Harlin is a director who is often bandied around internet circles with many claiming the man was one stroke from genius with his Die Hard sequel, Die Harder, and Cliffhanger but then increasingly became buried under Hollywood’s blockbuster formula by delivering The Long Kiss Goodnight, Deep Blue Sea and (God help us) Driven; each progressively worse than the last. Harlin’s career is echoing that of Stephen Sommers, a director with an arguably unique talent who could have developed into something interesting given proper guidance and room to breathe but instead has become nothing more than a self-indulgent hack with no clarity of vision.
For anybody hoping to get some supernatural kicks of special effects to drop their jaw had best forget it and buy a ticket for, The Covenant comes across as a straight-to-cable movie for the Sci-Fi channel full of Gap models who are as wooden as the sets they occupy. But considering the screenwriter has bought us such cinematic gems as The Forsaken and Sniper 3 it’s not surprising that The Covenant delivers one thing in abundance; disappointment.
This is hackneyed supernatural horror as it’s worst, like a B-movie without the accidental charm. It’s a watered down, glossy, smash-cut PG13 blitz on your senses full of soundtrack-ready rock music. The cast is a mix of ridiculously pretty people doing ridiculously pretty things that result in pointless drama and pointless action and, believe me when I say this, some of the worst dialogue I have heard in a film for years. This makes the shit uttered in Uwe Boll’s Bloodrayne sound like an Oscar-winning monologue.
The story, if you really care, centers on four teenage boys coming to age in Ipswich, Massachusetts. The boys form part of an ancient and secretive sect whose bloodline descends from the legendary Salem Witches who fled to Ipswich in a desperate attempt to avoid being killed by witch hunters. For reasons that are best left unexplained the boys all posses a powerful form of magic that allows them all to alter reality in any way they see fit, imaginatively titled “The Power.”
However as the boys approach 18 they learn that they will all “ascend” when they reach this age, granting them even more powers and abilities but at a cast; the more they use them the more it drains them and, if used unchecked, could potentially kill them. The film uses “The Power” as a crude metaphor for drug addiction and it’s delivered with as much skill and subtlety as you’d expect from the geniuses that bought us Exorcist: The Beginning, Cutthroat Island and The Marksman.
So the film chronicles Caleb Danvers (Steven Strait), Pogue Perry (Taylor Kitsch), Tyler Simms (Chace Crawford), and Reid Garwin (Toby Hemingway) using and abusing their powers as they go about their daily lives, hitting on girls, walking in slow motion to rock music and wearing trench coats with perfectly styled hair. While their appearances can’t really be faulted their acting abilities most certainly can with a range running the full gamut from laughably awful to laughably fu**ing awful. One can only presume they landed their roles based on wardrobe selection and smiles as opposed to something as unimportant as reciting lines with emotion.
The film tries to build suspense and drama by drip-feeding information in exposition filled scenes in the school library (that conveniently holds the apparently super-secretive family histories in full) and from other family members before the strong-but-silent new kid Chase Collins (Sebastian Stan) who’s been muscling on the boys territory turns out to be from their bloodline and is apparently more powerful than all of them combined…
And thus the final confrontation begins as both Chase and Caleb ascend and fight each but considering that their ascension was supposed to bring with it unimaginable powers of earth-shattering consequence all they do is jump around a dark barn and throw blobs of energy at each other.
Being a PG13 horror you could argue that the film couldn’t possibly deliver true horror or suspense as it’s shackled with a universally appealing rating but that isn’t my gripe, my gripe is that film doesn’t deliver on any level. It’s like watching an episode of Dawson’s Creek recited by failed acting students combined with a dash of witchcraft straight from The Dummies Guide to Witchcraft.
The Covenant may be The Craft with testicles but it certainly doesn’t have any balls. Just plenty of asses.