** (out of 5)
September 8, 2006
Steven Strait as CALEB
Sebastian Stan as CHASE
Toby Hemingway as REID
Chace Crawford as TYLER
Taylor Kitsch as POGUE
Laura Ramsey as SARAH
Jessica Lucas as KATE
Studio: Screen Gems
Directed by: Renny Harlin
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Have you ever noticed that when something is given a name that evokes thoughts of elegance, it often means the exact opposite? Think about a “gentleman’s club,” which is hardly filled with gentlemen or a Chinese restaurant that serves “gourmet food” amounting to nothing more than a hole in the wall.
Such is the case with Screen Gems. Really nothing more than the genre arm for Sony Pictures, Screen Gem films are not exactly gems of cinematic brilliance. Rather, you can expect cheesy horror films aimed at the PG-13 market. On this level, the new film “The Covenant” doesn’t disappoint.
Overall, this weak thriller has a lot of pointless things in it. It opens with a pointless text-on-screen introduction and moves into a pointless music-video stylized credit sequence. The characters have pointless existences, and the film is filled with plenty of pointless scenes with godawful dialogue.
While this summer we’ve seen plenty of films with bad dialogue. But those films, like “Snakes on a Plane,” had dialogue and situations that were so bad they were good in a way. However, the writing for “The Covenant” is just plain bad.
The story is about four teenage boys in the Massachusetts town of Ipswich. Their families were part of the founding fathers, and they are also the descendants of witches that fled from the Salem witch trials. As first born sons of the bloodline, the boys have been bestowed with “The Power,” a mysterious form of magic that lets them do pretty much whatever they can imagine.
When the boys reach 18, they “ascend,” which isn’t given much explanation or understanding. Suffice to say, it increases their power many times over. However, the more they use the Power, the more addictive it becomes. Eventually, it wears out the body, making them grow old prematurely.
As Caleb (Steven Strait) approaches his 18th birthday, the group of friends detect there is someone else in town using the Power. They try to track him down as they juggle regular high school pressures like hitting on the new girl, keeping up with the swim team and generally being cool.
“The Covenant” is directed by Renny Harlin, who makes the cinematic equivalent of a Big Mac. His work is not particularly good, but it can be a guilty pleasure. And I usually like it. I even liked “Cutthroat Island,” one of the most notorious bombs in movie history. But he still makes his fair share of crap. Consider “The Covenant” somewhere between “Deep Blue Sea” and “Exorcist: The Beginning.”
You probably won’t recognize many of the actors in “The Covenant.” They seem to be culled from the talent agencies based on how attractive they were in their head shots, with acting being the secondary (or sometimes lower) concern.
The only recognizable face is Laura Ramsey as the lead heroine. She was most recently seen in Amanda Bynes’ “She’s the Man.” However, I could have sworn I saw her before. After a quick search on IMDb, I realized she was one of the girls featured in the apocalyptically bad “The Real Cancun” that flopped in theaters three years ago.
Ramsey’s claim to fame in that film was her behavior as a psycho ex-girlfriend after having sex with, then being dumped by, one of the pretty boys of spring break. While Ramsey’s career is growing a bit, I just can’t shake what an idiot and slut she is in real life. She had no problem having drunken sex with a guy on camera three years ago, yet she won’t even appear nude in her shower scene in “The Covenant.” Sigh… such is the way of PG-13 films.
As a cheesy teenage horror movie – say, “The Witches of Dawson’s Creek” – it’s okay and will please its audience. But it’s really nothing more than really bad dialogue spoken by some of the most beautiful kids in Hollywood who can’t act their way out of a paper bag.