(2006) (Steven Strait, Sebastian Stan) (PG-13)
Otherwise, use the following link to read our complete Parental Review of this film.
- QUICK TAKE:
- Suspense/Horror: A group of young men must contend with a newcomer -- who seems to possess similar supernatural powers to theirs -- and his nefarious plans regarding them.
- It's the beginning of school at Spenser Academy and friends Caleb Danvers (STEVEN STRAIT), Pogue Parry (TAYLOR KITSCH), Tyler Simms (CHACE CRAWFORD) and Reid Garwin (TOBY HEMINGWAY) -- all descendents of the original families that founded the Ipswich Colony of Massachusetts in the 17th century -- are looking forward to a near year as well as all of them turning eighteen.
That's not only because it means they'll be adults, but also because that's when they'll "ascend" into possessing supernatural powers far greater than the ones they inherited at the age of thirteen. While most of their kind -- including a fifth family -- were hunted down and killed in the Salem Witch Trials, a few of them bonded into a covenant that's kept them safe and secret for the past 300 years.
But that's all about to change with the arrival of a new student. And we're not talking about pretty Sarah Wenham (LAURA RAMSEY) who draws Caleb's attention when not getting the lowdown on him and everyone else from her roommate Kate Tunney (JESSICA LUCAS). Instead, it's Chase Collins (SEBASTIAN STAN), another transfer student who also immediately hits it off with Caleb -- platonically -- but soon draws the suspicions of him and his friends.
For they sense that he might also possess "The Power" and that worries them since if he's already ascended, that would make him the most powerful and dangerous of the bunch. As strange things start occurring in their private school, Caleb, his friends, and Sarah try to figure out what's going on and stop any dangerous activity before it's too late.
- OUR TAKE: 2.5 out of 10
- I have no idea who first started it, but novelists have been playing with the structure of storytelling about as long as they've been putting thoughts onto paper. While the overriding plot thrust of most such tales still usually goes from point A to Z, the smaller elements often jump back and forth through the rest of the narrative alphabet.
Aside from a few notable exceptions (of recent - "Memento" and "Pulp Fiction" to name a few), however, most filmmakers prefer the perfectly linear approach to their storytelling. That's somewhat ironic since nearly all films are shot out of sequence and then put back on track in the editing booth. Nevertheless, there's no denying such transitions are easier to pull off in novel form since authors always have the luxury (time and space) of introducing the jump in time ("Back in the summer of 1968 when Quentin was a boy...").
Thus, one has to give kudos to Renny Harlin for deciding to tackle the non-linear storytelling approach in his latest film, the supernatural thriller "The Covenant." In it, the director -- who was once the next big thing after helming "Cliffhanger" and the second "Die Hard" film before capsizing his career with "Cutthroat Island" -- starts things off as normal, but then abruptly shifts gears by jumping way forward in time, and then again (this time nearly to the end), before heading back and then even more so, taking up where we had previously left off.
(Sound of phone ringing). Hello. Yes, that's right, I'm reviewing "The Covenant." What's that? Really? You don't say? How could that be? Okay, well, I'll let everyone know. Thanks for the heads up. Bye.
Well, it appears Renny didn't intend the film to be told in a non-linear fashion after all. It seems either the person who marked the film reels (that are shipped to theaters and then assembled onto one or two giant platters from which the film is then projected) or the employee who "built" the print in the theater got things out of order.
All of which is too bad since I have the feeling it probably played out in a more interesting fashion for the few of us in attendance who saw it in this form (Screen Gems didn't show it to critics before it opened) than the way it was presumably meant to be shown.
And that's because -- as far as I could piece it back together in my mind -- it's nothing more than a generic genre flick about a bunch of teen descendents of the witches and warlocks who founded a Massachusetts colony long before film (and the need to splice it all together to tell a story) was invented. They're the privileged pretty boys in town who have a devilish twinkle in their eye and step since they possess supernatural powers (mostly of the telekinetic variety with a few spells thrown in for good measure).
Then two outsiders arrive and shake up the status quo. One's the token genre pretty girl -- that being Laura Ramsey -- who draws the attention of the top dog of our magical quartet, played by Steven Strait. The other is the outsider -- the otherwise bland Sebastian Stan -- who seems nice at first, but has the obligatory ulterior motives that will soon clash with the leader and his pack.
With our print out of order, we got to see his evil long before Harlin and screenwriter J.S. Cardone intended, but it's not much of a stretch to say it would be easy for anyone watching the A to Z version to figure that out long before it happens. Along the way, there's the usual "don't look now" moments (and I'm not referring to the far superior Donald Sutherland/Julie Christie thriller from long ago), the girl in the shower bit, and some scenes featuring creepy-crawly critters going into body openings they really shouldn't.
All of that's really just killing time for the big showdown featuring the good and bad warlocks blasting each other with globs of protoplasmic energy in -- of all things -- a barn. Oh, it's scary all right, not in terms of fright mind you, but rather in how pedestrian and bland everything is conceived and executed. The film's one lone interesting twist (and I don't even think it's original, but can't remember where I've seen it before) is that those who use their powers age prematurely. Yet, all that leads to is some extra work for the makeup artist (on a minor character) and not much in terms of influencing the plot or main characters' actions.
The second coming of "The Lost Boys" this surely is not (where are the Coreys when you need them?). Even the film's money shot -- that of a huge truck smashing into a car that breaks apart into many pieces that fly around the vehicle and then reassemble on the other side -- is a letdown. That's not only because we'd already seen it in the previews, but also because it pales in comparison to similar yet far more shocking moments in those first "Final Destination" flicks.
While they aren't spectacular crashes either, the performances are as bland as everything else, and the only suspense I encountered was trying to figure out in what order the reels were originally intended to play. If you want to experience the film the way we saw it, wait for its arrival on DVD, and then simply rearrange the chapter order playback. Otherwise, you'll probably wish they had kept this "Covenant" sealed. The film rates as a boring 2.5 out of 10.
Reviewed September 8, 2006 / Posted September 8, 2006
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