Movie Review: The Covenant

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Some very pretty teenage boy witches struggle to keep each other in line as a new threat appears to threaten their lives.

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Renny Harlin, 2006

A bunch of rich white private school boys with brown hair, washboard abs, and magic powers live their everyday magical lives doing stuff like driving cars off cliffs and using magic to sexually harass women. However, every time they use their magic in these superbly mature ways, they become more addicted to the power. Once they turn 18 and ascend, each use of the magic will sap them of some of their life. Due to these negative effects and some apparent hunting of witches that goes on but never factors into the movie, the boys try to follow the covenant of rules created by their ancestors to keep their powers in check. De facto group leader and general brooder Caleb (Steven Strait) tries to reign in his pals while romancing the new girl at school, Laura (Sarah Wenham). Laura and her friend Kate (Jessica Lucas) befriend another new student, the eager to please Chase (Sebastian Stan), much to the displeasure of Kate’s boyfriend, the witchy Pogue (Taylor Kitsch). When a student from their school dies and strange things start happening to Caleb, he suspects a member of his coven of letting their magic get out of hand.

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This movie is a weird hybrid of a cynical cash-in on the Harry Potter/Twilight YA phase and an earnest attempt at something completely nonsensical. It’s all pretty half-naked teens growling their lines at each other set to music that was 10 years out of date even when the film was made. It honestly took me about half an hour to figure out who I was supposed to be rooting for in this film. The majority of the main guys look alike, which makes it hard to tell who’s in what group at the start of the film; it was only thanks to my previous knowledge of most of the actors that I was able to navigate the first twenty or so minutes of this film at all. Eventually the plot started to manifest, about an hour too late for it to make any sense. The film flits through a few different ideas before eventually settling on a villain with barely any motivation. It doesn’t help that the characters we’re meant to like are just as awful as the “mean” kids at the school. Taylor Kitsch’s character takes pleasure in using his magic to sexually harass a girl in a bar by flipping up her skirt (when he’s there with his girlfriend and not one of them is over 18), the Draco Malfoy of the group generally makes trouble and is whiny, and Chace Crawford is just sort of…there. The rules of the magic these boys have are nebulous in spite of the swathes of exposition we get, including the opening title cards, which look like something you might get in a home-made ouija board from the year 1999.

It doesn’t help the film that the acting is largely very wooden. The main two romantic leads are terrible and have no chemistry. Poor Sarah Wenham gets the most passive-aggressive wet blanket role in Laura, the outsider who either doesn’t know what’s going on or is imperilled. Steven Strait is given a lot more to do, but can’t handle any of it; he barely manages to growl out his lines, let alone emote. Of the cast, only Sebastian Stan appears to be making it work at all; he starts small and goes big, chewing up the scenery like it’s made of candy and he’s starving. At least he seems to be having fun against the backdrop of teen angst. There’s plenty of flesh on display from these ostensibly under-aged characters, for anyone into that sort of thing. Despite all its problems – and it has a LOT of problems – The Covenant is the kind of watchable train wreck of a bad movie that it’s hard to tear your eyes away from. It’s entertainingly bad, earnest in its terribleness. It moves fast, with terrible yet quotable dialogue and laughable magical fight scenes. So…there’s that, at least?

The Covenant on IMDb

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