Stars: Steven Strait, Sebastian Stan
Director: Renny Harlin
* (out of five)
THE COVENANT is a sloppily conceived pastiche of half-developed ideas and cheesy effects we’ve seen in other, better movies. Watching it, you get the sense that nobody much cared about what they threw into the production, so long as a movie came out at the end.
The tale of a quartet of prep-school youths who happen to be the blood heirs to the mystical powers of the Salem witches — or the “Sons of Ipswich,” for short — The Covenant is really just a gender-reversed spin on the 1996 cult thriller The Craft, which set a quartet of hot teenage actresses against one another with spells and curses. Here, it’s really buff guys exchanging dark looks and sneers, while their girlfriends sit back and suffer hallucinations and spiders crawling into their ears and noses.
There’s a lot of bother about “ascending” and “darklings,” and the inevitable face-off between the quartet’s noble leader (Sky High’s Steven Strait) and the sneery newcomer (Sebastian Stan) out to make him his, um, “wee-yotch.” Really, he says that. Out loud.
This is the kind of picture that screams “made for video;” the ideas in J.S. Cardone’s script just don’t seem big enough to fill a multiplex screen. Of course, you can overlook that sort of thing if there’s enough eye candy, but director Renny Harlin doesn’t even seem to be trying this time around; the closest he comes to putting his own stamp on this film is when he slips a geopolitical text about Finland into his actors’ homework.
And here’s a tip: If you make a movie that flirts with homoerotic subtext, it’s kind of snicker-inducing to end it with a grand climax where two guys throw their magical globs at one another.