The bewitching new movie, “The Covenant,” did not really hit theatres, but instead accidentally bumped into it on opening weekend, pulling in a bit less than nine million dollars. This is a shameful beginning in comparison to “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” which, debuting during the same weekend just a year ago, brought in more than three times the amount that “The Covenant” did. Why did a story based on such a popular graphic novel make such little impact in the box office? It couldn’t have had anything to do with the poor acting, barely existent plot line or special effects which, along with a cast of underage pretty people, seemed to be the only thing that this movie had to ride on. The story follows four boy band-esque teenagers who attend a prestigious preparatory school in an upper-class, seemingly always dreary area of New England. But before you think you are jumping into an East Coast version of Laguna Beach, think again. Caleb (Steven Strait) and his friends are not just any normal filthy rich boys from the Northeast with good looks, charm and women falling at their feet; they have witch-like powers to boot! It so happens that these kids are the descendents of five famous families of Salem accused of witchcraft centuries ago. Apparently, the people of Salem were not too crazy in their accusations because not only were their witch powers real, but they were also inheritable. The opening of the film explains that there is a secret covenant today of four boys who have these great powers which give them immunity from injury and even death, but that they must hide from the world to avoid exposure.
Now, if any math majors out there are reading, you may have noticed an inconsistency. There were five families who passed down this line of unimaginable power, but only four boys today that possess it. What happened to the fifth family? Well, it was believed by the remaining members of the covenant that the fifth family had died out some time ago, until a new kid, Chase (Sebastian Stan), transfers into their school, bringing a whole new evil into their lives.
The group then must figure out what to do about Chase. He barges into their lives, winning over the dean with money, beating all the best swimmers on the school’s team with suspiciously amazing skill and befriending the boys’ girlfriends. This especially bothers covenant member Pogue (Taylor Kitsch) who is very protective and caring of girlfriend Kate (Jessica Lucas) and very untrusting of Chase.
Realizing that Chase is a witch but not being able to prove that he is evil makes it difficult to accuse him of the mysterious death of a classmate and other oddities that occur around campus and their town. Chase is openly power-happy. It is mentioned throughout the movie that he has become “addicted” to the power. Will he try to claim the other four member’s powers for himself? Or will he try and expose the covenant in order to get what he wants?
The story is an interesting one. However, the director, Renny Harlin, is not the best story teller. His sense of humor is a little cheesy. For example, when using their powers, the boys referred to it as “using,” making it seem like a drug reference. It just didn’t seem very fitting in the area and social class that the characters were in.
Also, too many things were left unexplained during the film. If they were explained at all, it was explained loosely. Details about the background of the covenant members and their powers were given only for a very short time via fly-by articles in an old book at the very beginning of the movie. It is one of those read-it-yourself intros that, if you don’t give your full attention, you will be lost for the subsequent 97 minutes. The dialogue did not help either. Conversation between the characters was short and dry, and didn’t explain a lot of what was happening. Maybe the director thought that the special effects would distract the audience from the lack of direction throughout the film, because they were admittedly impressive and appropriate for the genre of movie.
In all, the “horror” aspect of the film was mild, but the action and supporting music did help make it bearable. If what you are interested in is a bunch of over-privileged pretty people strolling around and taking their clothing off left and right in between episodes of special effect-filled battles, then by all means see this movie. Just don’t expect a very in-depth plot or any sort of interesting dialogue., as Renny Harlin seems to be lacking in those departments.