You're probably asking yourself why anyone in their right mind would voluntarily review a movie such as The Covenant. Over the past few years I have reviewed many movies of much the same (or even lesser) quality as the one currently under consideration, and I've been asked that very question on more than one occasion. There's a very simple answer. It's not for the fortune, or the glory, or the hot and cold running chicks. No, the reason I watch movies such as this is so fine people such as yourself don't have to.
Most of the students at the prestigious Spenser Academy are the products of a world of wealth and privilege, but four stand out from the rest. They are the Sons of Ipswich, the descendants of four Massachusetts families targeted by the Salem witch hunt. Caleb Danvers (Steven Strait), levelheaded and straitlaced, is the de facto leader of the group. Reid Garwin (Toby Hemingway) is a hothead who uses his powers in a brash, irresponsible manner. Pogue Perry (Taylor Kitsch) is the brooding one. Tyler Simms (Chace Crawford) is the shy one. The four friends are just entering their senior year when two new arrivals at the school shake things up. The first is Sarah Wenham (Laura Ramsey), who has just transferred from a public school in Boston; she takes an immediate liking to Caleb. Then there's Chase Collins (Sebastian Stan), a mysterious young man who has spent years bouncing from school to school. Unbeknownst to the others, Chase is descended from another Ipswich family, one whose members were banished because of their greed and lust for power. Seems the apple hasn't fallen far from the tree, and Chase has returned to steal Caleb's powers, and he'll stop at nothing to achieve his goal.
Sounds stupid, doesn't it? It is stupid. The Covenant, the latest turkey from director Renny Harlin (remember when he used to actually make fairly decent flicks?), is one of the damn stupidest movies I've seen in a long time. It fails on every level. The plotting and scripting are awful. The performances give amateurish acting a bad name (the actors all sound as if they had a heaping bowl of Quaaludes before each take). The characters are all unlikable tools. The visual effects look like they were cooked up by members of a junior high AV club. I'm still trying to figure out how this piece of junk was financed by a major production company and released by a major studio. I could understand if it had debuted on the SciFi Channel, or had been a direct-to-video release, or had been created as a pilot for a series on whatever you call that new hybrid of the WB and UPN, but you're telling me this thing warranted a theatrical run? Sorry, I just don't see it.
The characters don't act or speak in a manner resembling anything you'd find in the real world, but instead act and speak as if screenwriter J.S. Cardone (who also wrote The Forsaken) learned everything he knows about human behavior from watching countless bad movies. The plotting suffers from a serious case of Attention Deficit Disorder. The opening scenes set up a class rival for Caleb and his friends, but this is forgotten about fifteen minutes in. A student mysteriously dies, and the dean of the school suspects the Ipswich lads know something about the death, but it's never explained why he believes this, nor is it explained exactly how the boy's death fits into the overall plot (the boy later appears as some sort of spirit, but I have no idea how or why). It's also hinted that the dean knows who Chase is and why he's come back, but this is also left unresolved. And the mythology behind the boys' power, which is cleverly referred to as "the Power," changes to suit the needs of any given scene. I know it's pure junk we're talking about, but even junk has to be believable on its own terms.
I have several questions I'd like to ask the filmmakers. I don't expect to receive any reply, but I'll posit them anyway. First off, how the hell does no one know exactly what the boys are? Their family names are plastered all over the pages of the numerous history of witchcraft books lining the shelves of the school's library, but no one even seems to think it's possible that the rumors about their ancestors' nature could hold some truth. Why does the file containing Chase's academic transcripts also contain a newspaper clipping about the death of his adoptive parents? (Guess maybe all those urban myths about everything being contained in your Permanent Record actually are true.) When the boys are looking at the genealogy book down in Caleb's cellar, why is the bookstand encased in a ring of fire? Is that really a good idea? When Pogue is attacked by Chase and ends up in the hospital, why don't his parents show up? When Pogue's girlfriend is attacked by Chase and ends up in the hospital, why don't her parents show up? When Caleb and Chase have a fight and destroy half of Sarah's dorm room, why doesn't anyone else notice the ruckus? Doesn't the driver of that logging truck find it strange that Chase's car runs slap into him, explodes, and then magically reforms? If that happened to me, I'm pretty sure I'd turn around and chase down the other driver. Why do these kids only go to class for fifteen minutes a day? And lastly, why didn't you guys put a little more effort into this?
The movie alternates between being utterly stupid and being crushingly boring. For every scene in which the dopey heroes use the Power in a cavalier manner, there's a scene in which characters spout seemingly unending exposition regarding the ill effects of using the Power in such a cavalier manner. For every scene of the dopey heroes using the Power to chuck empty beer kegs at each other, there's a scene of the dopey heroes talking to each other on their cell phones. And for every scene of Laura Ramsey taking a shower, you get a scene of the dopey heroes doing the same. (Okay, so maybe that last example doesn't quite work, as showing Laura Ramsey in the show doesn't exactly qualify as a stupid act, but I think you get my point.)
Can you imagine how actual teenage boys with such abilities would act? Sure, the ones in the movie are shown using their powers to blow up women's skirts and cheat at pool, but I was thinking they'd take it further than that. Why not fix the lottery, make some fast cash by changing grades for other students, or turn the entire female population (or at least the attractive ones) into bisexual nymphomaniacs (now there's an idea for a movie!). Yeah, yeah, I know that the power is described as being addictive, and that using it leads to premature aging, but these are teenage boys we're talking about here. Given the choice between using the Power to get laid or using it to fix an old Volkswagen, I'm pretty sure the Volkswagen would have to wait.
Two more things before we move on. From what I understand, The Covenant was based on a same-named graphic novel published by Image Comics (which probably explains why Marc Silvestri is listed as one of the producers). The names of the writer and artist of said graphic novel are nowhere to found in the movie's credits. Could it be that they want nothing to do with this movie? If that's the case, I can't say I blame them. Secondly, many people commented that the previews for The Covenant made it look like a mash-up of The Lost Boys and The Craft. That's pretty much true, but it also sells the movie short. The Covenant also steals from Highlander, The Matrix Revolutions, Dark City, and Underworld. That's quite an accomplishment for a flick that only runs a little more than ninety minutes.
I hate to have to tell you this, but the video is damned near perfect. The movie's visual scheme is a dark and somewhat stylized one, and the 2.35:1 transfer does an outstanding job of rendering that look. Colors, black levels, and details (shadow and otherwise) are very impressive. This is easily one of the best transfers I've so far encountered on a Blu-ray disc.
I hate to have to tell you this, but the audio is just as impressive as the video. Both the Dolby Digital and PCM 5.1 soundtracks are loud and raucous, with abundant surround and bass action; this thing booms and crashes from beginning to end. The banal dialogue is always clear and intelligible. The Dolby track is available in both and English and French; English, French, Korean, Chinese, Portuguese, Spanish, and Thai subtitles are included.
The commentary from director Renny Harlin is a far better track than the movie deserves. Harlin is effusive in his praise for the script and cast (meaning he's either being very diplomatic or he's completely off his rocker), shares plenty of production info, and discusses the technical intricacies of the shoot.
I found Breaking the Silence: Exposing The Covenant (19 minutes) to be an extremely enjoyable making-of featurette, primarily because listening to the cast (who are even more vapid than you'd expect them to be) and crew (who are old enough to know better) attempt to pass the movie off as a unique, revolutionary work of crowd-pleasing popular art made me laugh harder than I have in a very long time.
Closing out the extras is a trailer for the equally stupid Ultraviolet.
If it weren't so damn boring, The Covenant would make an excellent rent-it-and-laugh-your-ass-off-at-it choice. As it stands, though, I suggest you skip this one altogether.