Directed by Renny Harlin
Produced by Tom Rosenberg, Gary Lucchesi
Written by J.S. Cardone
Director of Photograpy Pierre Gill
Music by Tomandandy
Cast: Steven Strait, Laura Ramsey, Sebastian Stan, Taylor Kitsch
2006/97 mins/Color/Dolby Digital 5.1
2.35:1 anamorphic/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the Sony Pictures Home Entertainment DVD
Horror movies are clichéd. In fact, it's gotten to the point where saying horror movies are clichéd has become somewhat of a cliché. In other words, it’s rare that we see anything truly original in horror films. However, there are also elements of horror films that we don’t get to see often enough. One of my favorites is where two characters imbued with psychic or supernatural powers duke it out. Yes, the final battle in SCANNERS is the epitome of this sort of thing, but I would like to see it more often. The trailers for THE COVENANT made it look as if the movie would answer my prayers. Unfortunately, once the fighting finally begins the movie had long since lost my interest.
THE COVENANT is set at the prestigious Spenser Academy, a prep school in New England. There, we meet four friend, Caleb Danvers (Steven Strait), Pogue Parry (Taylor Kitsch), Tyler Sims (Chace Crawford), and Reid Garwin (Toby Hemingway). These four young men are known as the “Sons of Ipswich” -- descendants of the oldest families in the area. They are all also secretly very powerful warlocks. They have some powers, but once they reach their 18th birthday, they will “Ascend” and be granted their full powers. However, there’s a catch -- the more one uses their powers after “ascension”, the faster they will age.
As the semester starts, Caleb (the leader of the group) meets two new students, Sarah (Laura Ramsey) and Chase (Sebastian Stan). Caleb is immediately attracted to Sarah, but is a bit unsure about Chase’s obvious attempts to fit into the “in” crowd. Things begin to turn sour when a student is found dead. The image of this dead student appears to Caleb, leading him to believe that magic was used to kill the boy. As Reid has always been a loose cannon, Caleb immediately suspects him, but his friend denies any involvement. When Sarah’s roommate Kate (Jessica Lucas) falls into a mysterious illness, and Sarah herself begins to experience odd occurrences, Caleb is convinced that someone is after the group. But who could it be?
THE COVENANT is truly odd in its unoriginality. Most any horror fans who’s a member of Generation X may throw their hands up in disgust and be tempted to turn off the film within the first few seconds of the opening, as the entire opening sequence feels as if it was taken directly from THE LOST BOYS (one shot is either a strong homage or a complete rip-off of one shot from Schumacher’s movie). The overall story, where there are four witches in a high school setting, is not too far off from THE CRAFT. And while the finale certainly pales in comparison to SCANNERS, it’s not unrealistic to compare the two.
The flaw with THE COVENANT is that outside of these “nods” to other movies, the film doesn’t have much to offer. The film was directed by Renny Harlin, and despite the fact that he’s directed some stinkers in the past, I usually like his work (DEEP BLUE SEA is a favorite). But, there’s no inspired filmmaking in THE COVENANT and the overly blue look of film is something which we’ve seen in many other films. (Despite the fact that in the audio commentary, Harlin claims that he wanted the film to look different from other movies.) The one original and breathtaking shot in the film, involving a car crash, was prominently featured in the trailer. The script by J.S. Cardone, who wrote THE FORSAKEN, features very two-dimensional characters and the film doesn’t go to any great lengths to take us inside these characters. In fact, the movie feels like a sequel at times, because the story simply starts and it’s up to us to figure out who these people are and what is happening.
While we are constantly inundated with psycho-killer and zombie movies, there aren’t nearly enough witch films out there. And it’s truly a shame that we get a moderately budgeted ($20 million) studio movie about witches that goes absolutely nowhere. The movie has no real suspense or sense of mystery (I figured out what was happening very quickly) and the witch-on-witch action is very disappointing. The film’s familiar story and sluggish pacing will create a sense of unwanted unease in the viewer and by the time one of the characters says, “I’m going to make you my we-otch!” most of the audience will be ready to sweep these witches out the door.
THE COVENANT casts a spell on DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The DVD contains two versions of the film, one widescreen and the other full-frame. For the purposes of this review, only the widscreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The transfer looks very good, as the image is quite sharp and clear -- despite some mild grain which was a result of the post-production coloring process. The image shows no defects from the source material and the framing appears to be accurate. The colors look good (although, again, they are dominated by blue) and the dark film is never overly dark. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which has the quality one would expect from Sony. The dialogue is clear and audible and the stereo effects are very good. The use of surround sound is nicely done and the subwoofer comes into play on several occasions.
THE COVENANT DVD only contains two extra features. We start with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from director Renny Harlin. As with Harlin’s other commentaries, two things are readily apparent here -- 1. He has a very distinct voice, and 2. He talks about his movies as if he didn’t actually work on them. This commentary is very cold and distant and even when Harlin speaks directly about something which happened on the set, he sounds as if he’s documenting something he witnessed as opposed to something that he actually did. His commentary is very technical and he rarely touches on the story of the film. The other extra is “Breaking the Silence: Exposing THE COVENANT” (19 minutes), a behind-the-scenes featurette which looks at the cast, characters, the look of the film, the locations, and the visual effects.
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2007. ©