The Covenant

The Covenant (2006)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Cast: Wendy Crewson, Taylor Kitsch, Laura Ramsey, Jessica Lucas, Sebastian Stan
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurette

"Come to save little Ms. Muffet, have we? Well, you're too late. A spider came and sat down beside her and frightened Ms. Muffet away!"

That quote you just read? Yep, it's the kind of award winning dialogue you can expect at every turn in "The Covenant," your latest dose of the mediocre from Director Renny Harlin and Writer J.S. Cardone.

The story, if you want to call it that, centers on four teenagers blessed with ancient powers of witchcraft that allow them to accomplish such world-altering miracles as lifting women's skirts, plunging off of cliffs, and being really pale. The catch is, their power is limited and the more they use it, the more it consumes and ages them. Caleb Danvers, the oldest among them, is about to turn eighteen and inherit a whole other series of problems that he desperately wants to avoid. Added to the mix is a fifth teen named Chase Collins, a new transfer from another school who mysteriously has powers as well. He's out to get the other four warlocks for reasons secretly his own… unless you saw the trailer in theaters… which makes watching the first forty-five minutes of the movie pointless. Can you taste my cynicism?

At best, some of you will find this entertaining-crap, roller coaster of a film to be fun… and that's fine. I love "Jurassic Park 3" and refuse to admit just how awful it really is. When I was fourteen, "The Covenant" would've been one of the best movies of all time. All kinds of stuff 'splodes… guys shoot power bubbles… woo. But unfortunately, this movie is so ludicrous and full of plot holes that it betrays a genuinely interesting and pulpy concept that could've been a great little cult flick. Even more unforgivable is how much of the movie owes itself to "The Lost Boys," which side stepped all of the pitfalls the boys from "The Covenant" love to jump right into. The acting here, outside of the charismatic two leads, is forced, melodramatic, and highlights a dreadful screenplay that I can't believe made its way onto a producer's desk. The one-liners are so fast and frequent that you almost buy the prep school setting for half a second before realizing most of the actors are pushing thirty. Beyond all of this, the last act is so convoluted and preposterous that you won't even care when the utterly anti-climactic ending attempts to engage your brain one last time. I'm sure the straight-to-video sequel that the ending begs for will be a love letter to Renny Harlin. And it'll make money too since some people won't be able to resist finding out what happened to our pen-tet of lovable witches.

Luckily, one of the nice surprises in this release is the beautiful Blu-Ray presentation of the movie. For everyone who doubted the quality of the MPEG-2 codec, I recommend you just sit down and look at five minutes of "The Covenant." The image is flawless with amazing shadow clarity, contrast, and black levels and is easily a showcase piece for justifying the cost of upgrading to high definition DVD's. I only wish the stylistic choices of the director and cinematographer made for a more lovely picture. There are a few scenes that take place during the day where more natural colors take the stage and it's here that "The Covenant" looks its best. Otherwise, the movie is so awash with bright blues and grays, a direct swipe from "Underworld," that there's not a lot to look at aside from the sheen of the picture. At least in the case of "Underworld," the plotline and thematic elements of the story lent itself to those color choices… here it seems an afterthought only used in post-production to align "The Covenant" with more successful action horror films.

The audio, presented in lossless PCM 5.1, is as pristine as the video and helps make for a very impressive technical package. The sound and its design make every explosion resonate with deep booms that increase the realism of every impact, particularly in the final battle between evil and… um… evil-er. Again though, my problem is with the choices made by the filmmakers. Sound is so overused without any restraint that the effects begin to feel theatrical and stagey and lack the subtlety of a really well done soundfield. On top of this, the migraine-inducing soundtrack is barbarically done, even for fans of this particular genre of techno-rock-metal. That style aside, there's nothing interesting going on and most of the music could be produced by any college band with a dream across the nation. However, this isn't really a surprise considering the less-discerning audience "The Covenant" is proudly trying to attract.

If you just heard a sigh come through your computer, don't be alarmed, that was just me as I prepare to talk about the extras on this Blu-Ray disc. There's a laughable documentary that you can save time and skip. It's just a bunch of the cast and crew patting themselves on the back for being a part of such a brilliant, genre-bending film. The commentary with Renny Harlin is also cringe-worthy in that I never got the impression that he realizes, or wants to admit, exactly what kind of movie we're watching. I always wonder if directors like this understand what they've made or if they're so deluded by their own fame that they really believe what they're saying. To be fair though, I only could suffer my way through half of the commentary track before moving on. While I appreciate that Harlin wasn't bogging the proceedings down with technical banter and was genuinely interested in talking about the story, characters, cast, and crew, I just couldn't get past how much he truly loved the final product.

If you're an absolute fan of movies that are all flash and no bang… you may find something to enjoy with "The Covenant." If you want to see everything your Blu-Ray player or PS3 is capable of, by all means, check out this movie. For the rest of you, this is a desperate rental at best. Trust me: walk up to your friendly Blockbuster employee, have them direct you to the Science Fiction aisle, and pick up the Shakespearean masterpiece that is "Jurassic Park 3."

Then tell me which one of us should be reviewing movies.