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Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Covenant

Remember when singer Kanye West made headlines by announcing that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people”? Well, I can tell you after this weekend that Michael Lynton doesn’t care about teenagers. You’re probably scratching your head and wondering who Michael Lynton is and why he doesn’t care. Mr. Lynton is the CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment, and his Screen Gems Studios is responsible for insulting the intelligence of every adolescent in America with the price of admission to a movie by leading them to believe he was giving them something worth seeing in this latest travesty on tape called The Covenant, now playing at the Essex Cinemas.

Even if you had been hit in the head by a flying ball of magically-conjured protoplasm and spent
years in a vegetative state you could see that this piece of cinematic sick has more holes in it that both Bonnie and Clyde after their final shootout with the feds.

The premise of The Covenant is hardly original, but in the right hands and with the right actors it could have been an entertaining and maybe even frightening flick, but instead it comes off as a cheesy patchwork quilt of stolen moments from The Lost Boys, The Craft, and even the Limburger of all cheese, tvs’ old gothic soap opera “Dark Shadows.” Heck, even the mysterious stranger who comes to town is named Chase Collins, perhaps a distant relative of “Dark
Shadows” own celebrity vampire Barnabas Collins, who was smart enough to stay away from this movie like it stinks worse than garlic, which it does, but it’s not garlic that the smell on this dud resembles.

So, the central question at the heart of the story is simple: What could be worse than having four out of control teen warlocks at a New England preparatory academy who are high on having
amazing supernatural powers? The answer: Having five, especially when the fifth doesn’t play well with others.

You see, the premise of The Covenant is as sketchy as Paris Hilton’s acting talents.
The idea is that the Ipswich Colony in Massachusetts was founded by five magical families who settled there in
the 17th century. After the purging of the Salem trials killed off many practicing witches, four of the families went into hiding and continued their bloodline while keeping their powers a secret, thus establishing a Covenant of silence amongst them. The fifth family simply disappeared one day, and eventually everyone assumed that they had died out and left no heirs.

Now the four stud muffins Caleb Danvers (Steven Strait; Sky High), Pogue Parry (Taylor Kitsch; Snakes on a Plane), Reid Garwin (Toby Hemingway; Indio, USA), and Tyler Sims (Chace Crawford; Long Lost Son) basically “own” the school. Girls swoon over their six pack abs, which are on display as often as it is possible for the writer to come up with the slimmest of excuses for them to be shirtless, and fortunately for the young ladies and gay boys in the audience the foursome are on the swim team, so they spend their free time in the tiniest of Speedos when not hanging around in the shower room wearing even less. Not that this has much to do with advancing the plot, but then there’s not much plot to advance, so the (alleged) writer pads a lot of the film’s 94 minute running time with as much PG-13 nudity as he can just to fill up time and titillate what he obviously considers the easily distracted minds of the core audience. Not that he leaves out the boys, of course. The Ipswich Four all have varying degrees of lust percolating for two Barbie doll roommates named Kate Tunney (Jessica Lucas; She’s The Man) and Sarah Wenham (Laura Ramsey; also of She’s The Man). While the ladies don’t swim they do spend inordinate amounts of time in their room stripping down to their lingerie and striking poses on their beds while chatting endlessly about the dreamy potential of their guys. They end up looking like they are one pillow fight away from a Lesbian soft-core porn movie.

Eventually, all the slap-and-tickle does have to give way to a trickle of plot and Caleb, being the only important character of the quartet, has to meet up with his mother (Wendy Crewson; Eight Below) so we can hear even more exposition about his powers. You see, everything has to have at least one teensy little drawback. In this case, it seems that when a boy turns 18 he “ascends” (think testicles dropping only in a magical upward sense) and the young man suddenly gains even more abilities, but at a terrible cost. Now when he uses his powers he will feel an addictive rush that will make his body begin to age, so it is imperative that he not fall under the seductive spell of his own abilities and overdo the magic or he’ll end up looking like Abe Vigoda in less than a week.
To make the point clear for the simple-minded in the audience, we even get a chance to visit with Caleb’s father, who, at 44, resembles something akin to a dehydrated manatee with a tuft of Muppet fur on its’ head. Oh, and naturally for the sake of the movie, by coincidence, the next day is Caleb’s 18th birthday. How convenient.

Of course, the new boy in school, Chase Collins (Sebastian Stan; The Architect), just happens to have a profound liking for all the same things Caleb seems to enjoy. He wants to be the freestyle swim champ on the team, he wants to score with Sarah, he wants to suck the powers right out of
Caleb and become the most powerful warlock in the world, little things, you understand, but things that are never really explained. Maybe it’s just a matter of revenge because he feels his ancestors were treated badly? Now that’s holding a grudge! It doesn’t really matter. It can just get thrown on the pile with all the other plot holes in this stinker. There are plenty to entertain the astute viewer. For instance, how is it that Sarah screams bloody murder in the middle of her dorm hallway at 2:00 am and not one student opens a door or turns on a light? Are they all that stoned? And why is it that even though the movie spans several days’ time it is almost always dark and it is always thundering with lightening in the background? Do these people live in some strange magnetic part of Massachusetts the rest of us never heard of? It’s like a Beantown Triangle or something. Oh, and what was the entire purpose of the “darkling”? For some unknown reason Caleb and crew are haunted (inexplicably mostly off-screen) by a ghostly spirit/zombie called a “darkling” but the reason for it and who sent it is never explained. Are “darklings” like psychic spam email from the other side? Why bring ‘em up if they aren’t important to the story, but then again, neither are Pogue, Reid and Tyler really. Why are they even in the movie except to raise teenage libidos when they are wearing their banana hammocks? But the biggest question left unanswered is that if the warlocks have such remarkable powers they can reconstitute themselves after being smashed to pieces in a car accident or after walking through walls, then why can’t they simply inhabit a new body when the one the are in wears out and grows old? Duh!

The Covenant is a disappointment on so many levels, and not just because it isn’t Oscar-worthy material. It saddens me to think that this is the state of horror in 2006. Kids today deserve to be scared silly the way earlier generations were, with movies that had real jolts in them, pictures like
The Exorcist, The Fly, Night of the Living Dead, Halloween, and Silence of the Lambs. The only things scary about The Covenant are the wretched dialogue, the amateurish acting, and the unimaginative not-so-special effects. Scarier still is the ending that leaves the door wide open for a sequel.

1 comment:

Rashfriar said...

Your review is right on. The trouble is, this film actually had an intriguing spin on the warlock/horny teen genre, and tossed it out pretty quickly. Ah well. Good observation on the Dark Shadows connection.