The Covenant

The Covenant


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Caleb, Pogue, Tyler and Reid have always been close. What's more, their families have always been close. Descended from a group of witches who fled English persecution to settle in the small American town of Ipswich, they share a covenant, keeping secret the supernatural abilities which they have inherited. These abilities - which seem to constitute the equivalent of a gamer lying about what number the dice rolled - are harmless enough at first, but threaten to increase dramatically when the owner 'ascends' at the age of 18, with the downside that they age that person prematurely and can also become addictive. As Caleb approaches his 18th birthday, his mother fears that she will lose him as she lost her husband.

We know all this thanks to lengthy pieces of exposition right at the start of the film, with Caleb's mother talking to him as if he's an amnesiac. It's an indication of the way conversation will work throughout. An odd combination of would-be horror movie and 12A certificate, The Covenant is clearly aiming at a Buffy or The Craft kind of crowd, but has nowhere near that level of sophistication.

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That said, it comes very close to salvation through utter silliness. It's full of 30-second scenes, crudely cut together, in which nervous actors exchange three-line pieces of dialogue, soap opera style, before we cut to another image of old buildings or trees at night; on many of these occasions it's hard to tell whether the fuzzy imagery is an attempt to create atmosphere or just the result of poor quality film stock. At one point, during the final showdown, our hero's mouth moves for a full minute before any sound comes out - and it's not just out of sync, as nothing extra follows. It's just that bad.

Unfortunately, these moments of unintentional hilarity are insufficient to support the rest of the film, which meanders hopelessly along on a route we've all taken before. It's at its most embarrassing when attempting to be youthful and hip, with cliched scenes of parties, car chases and hanging around in bars, which must make the average teenager squirm. When it tries to scare, it runs the gamut of classic thrills from A to B. Unless you're already a pathological arachnophobe, there's nothing for you here. In an attempt to fulfil the horror movie's other traditional purpose it throws in a couple of gratuious shower scenes, but even these don't really deliver.

The Covenant is summed up by its final fight scene, in which the villain, trying to force our hero to submit, keeps repeating: "Just say the words and it will all be over." "Yes!" cry the audience desperately. "Just say the words, and it will all be over!"

Reviewed on: 08 Dec 2006
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Four friends who have inherited supernatural powers find themselves facing a mysterious threat.
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Director: Renny Harlin

Writer: JS Cardone

Starring: Steven Strait, Laura Ramsey, Sebastian Stan, Taylor Kitsch, Chace Crawford, Toby Hemingway, Jessica Lucas, Kyle Schmid, Wendy Crewson, Stephen McHattie, Kenneth Welsh

Year: 2006

Runtime: 97 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


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