Movie Review: The Covenant (2006)

So The Covenant is easily one of my favourite films, it is by no means perfect as I will expand upon later but something about it is nonetheless endearing. Before we move on to the actual review though I will expand upon the details of the movie a little more.

The Covenant is a Canadian/American supernatural film, it was written by J. S. Cardone (known for writing and directing The Slayer, Shadowzone and The Forsaken) and is directed by Renny Harlin (known for directing A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, Die Hard 2 and Deep Blue Sea).

The movie stars Steven Strait (noted for his roles in Sky High, 10,000 BC and The Expanse), Sebastian Stan (noted for his roles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Gossip Girl and Kings), Laura Ramsey (noted for her roles in She’s the Man, The Ruins and Middle Men), Taylor Kitsch (he is noted for his roles in Friday Night Lights, X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Battleship), Jessica Lucas (noted for her roles in Edgemont, Melrose Place and Gotham), Toby Hemingway (noted for his roles in Black Swan, Into the Darkness and Street and Playback) and Chace Crawford (noted for his roles in Gossip Girl, Blood & Oil and The Boys).

Also interesting enough, Top Cow Comics/Image Comics produced a prequel comic book series based on the movie. I struggled to actually find out much more about it but you can click this link here to buy the 2 issue comic book run relatively cheaply.

Anyway, that’s probably enough background information, let’s get started on the actual review. Okay first off as I mentioned up top this is not the perfect movie, but I do like it. Let’s focus on the positive points and move on from there. Okay, the movie is clearly aimed at teenagers, it has plenty of action, is fun and has a nice energy to it, and plenty of attractive people make up the core cast.

Okay, the colour gradient of the film is muted, similar to the Twilight movie, it used solid tones of blue and grey which work well within the context of the movie. It is a little dark visually but I wouldn’t say so dark as to be a detriment to being able to work out what’s actually happening.

I enjoyed the soundtrack, it fit well, both with the movie and the specific period in time in which the movie was made, it was certainly nothing to write home about but it was a big part of setting the scene and making this movie one of my personal favourites.

The cast not only held some future big stars like Sebastian Stan but they all deliver a pretty decent performance, I already liked Steven Strait, the main lead of the movie who played Caleb Danvers because of his role as Warren Peace in the movie Sky High but he really stood out in this role, he balanced the stoicism and responsibility of his character with a little bit of teenage hedonism and Joie de vivre that make the movie enjoyable. Likewise, Toby Hemingway as Reid Garwin was a highlight, he was in many ways the opposite of Caleb’s character, he revelled in his powers, and was reckless and a little dangerous. You get the feeling that despite growing up together the real reason they are friends is the obligation that their family lines share. It lends an air of authenticity to the group dynamic. Being totally honest while I liked the other two of the four sons of Ipswich they were relatively bland in comparison, the second oldest of the group, Pogue Parry, played by Taylor Kitsch, at least has an interesting dynamic with Sebastian Stan’s character Chase Collins because he is worried his girlfriend Kate Tunney, played by Jessica Lucas is interested in him. Laura Ramsey’s character Sarah Wenham felt more like a plot point than a living, breathing character, it wasn’t bad acting on her part, she did the role justice but unfortunately she was written to be both a love interest and a bargaining chip for the main villain of the piece and did not really evolve beyond that. She fell for Caleb practically straight away and everything just kind of pushed forward after that so she didn’t have much time to develop as a character beyond the needs of the plot.

I liked the visual effects as well, other than the lightning bolt energy blasts at the end of the movie which stretched credulity a little, it was a solid experience all around, while I’m not a huge fan of spiders, they lend the horror movie, which was actually light on the horror, a creepier element. Perhaps the best visual effect effect in the entire movie was the scene where after seeing a darkling (an omen of death) in his car Caleb crashed his car into a semi-truck, and in an explosion of fire and metal, he uses his witch powers to disassemble his vehicle and reassemble it to avoid the collision. It was awesome and that alone would have made the movie worth watching. Speaking of the darkling though the SFX and make-up/the overall design of the darkling was also really good.

Okay. The core plot and backstory of the movie are really interesting, it follows four young students at an elite private school, each of them a descendant of a line of witches, who can trace their lineage and ties back to 1692 to the Salem Witch Trials, and the ancestors who formed a covenant of secrecy to protect themselves from persecution. A fifth family, obsessed with power and unwilling to bind themselves fully to this covenant broke off from the group and were believed to have died off. Unfortunately for the ‘Sons of Ipswich’ as the main characters are known, that’s not the case and a descendant of the fifth returns for blood, vengeance and power. Now seriously, read that as a concept and tell me it isn’t awesome. It was not however executed as well as it could have been. It’s always kept more as an undercurrent, when it could have been utilised so much better. Something I did really like was how the characters dealt with having ‘Power’, throughout we see each of them use their abilities, most noticeably during the finale fight scene when two supercharged witches come at each other no holds barred, however there are other fun examples like when the four main character combined their powers while escaping from the police to literally levitate their car in the air, it was awesome and showed that their powers can be fun.

They also go to considerable lengths to provide a reason why it can be dangerous to use their powers. For a start in a more mundane way, their is a scene where the reckless son Reid is hustling at pool, we assuming using his powers, this is looked down upon by Caleb not only because it’s a cheap and flashy way of using their tremendous abilities but also because it risks exposure because once people begin to question how Reid is cheating, they risk breaking the covenant. However in a much bigger sense, they detail how the sons, and their ancestors before them are given access to a portion of their power at the age of 13, and when they turn eighteen they are awakened, and have access to their full abilities. These powers however do not come without a price, using them is not only addictive, but self-destructive as the energy they tap into to use amazing feats is their own lifeforce. Caleb is the more mature and serious of the group because his father misused his powers and despite being in his mid to late forties, has been aged and wizened to near death and Caleb cares for him and uses him as a reminder just how much of a double edged sword ‘The Power’ is.

Okay, now on to what wasn’t great about the film, I touched on the fact that Sarah felt flat, and underserved as a character, likewise the other two ‘Sons of Ipswich’ namely Pogue and Tyler didn’t really add much. They fleshed out the cast but honestly I keep forgetting they are there unless they are physically sharing a scene with a more memorable character. Also there was a whole plot point with the pretentious bully character that felt kind of pointless, it was like they tried to include elements of a regular high school drama but it came across weak and distracted from the core plot, especially since unlike the newcomers Sarah and Chase, he was unlikely to have been the antagonist of the film, the secret final ‘Son of Ipswich’. Which actually leads me on to another gripe about the film, and beware *SPOILERS* I was kind of disappointed that they went with Chase for the bad guy instead of Sarah, for a start he was kind of coded as the villain from the start because he was a nice guy from the offset and appeared out of nowhere, to suddenly ingratiate themselves into the lives of the main characters, whereas Sarah, who is also new in town is clearly geared to be a love interest, but the fact she unintentionally stirs some conflict between Caleb and Reid, and is seemingly very interested in the ‘Sons of Ipswich’ and their secrets means she could equally serve as the villain, more so because if she made Caleb fall in love with her, the final fight would have much more emotional significance and depth.

I think overall this might have been better at a television series, and I would totally be up for it being adapted as such as a reboot in the future. Doing so would allow them more room to breathe, more chance to flesh out characters and progress relationships at a natural pace. It would have allowed for some red-herrings and other twists in the reveal of who the fifth son was. It also would have let them develop the sub plots more and just overall turn the awesome premise into the great movie it deserved to be.

So in conclusion, The Covenant is an okay film, it was served by adequate special effects, engaging fight scenes and decent acting. It struggled with pacing, execution of plot and underutilising of characters. It is an overall enjoyable movie that could have been better and as such earns a 2.5/5

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