30 Days of Fright – 09: The Covenant

There are few tales from history that can invoke chills in the same way a horror film can. One such tale is of the events in the early 1690’s that took place in Salem, Massachusetts. During that dark period of American history nineteen people were hanged as witches and at least one other died under torture. The colonies in the 1690’s were full of superstition and fear and it’s unlikely that everyone involved in the process of those trials really believed in witchcraft to the extent that was claimed. Like many modern legal wrangles, the business in Salem was really about land and grudges between neighbours.

The reality of the witch trails doesn’t reduce the power of the story and how it can still send a shiver down the spine. When I first started really reading up on Salem I found myself wanting there to be a deeper, supernatural element to the tale, and I suspect that I’m not alone in that desire. Salem has been the source material for many fine works, just look at The Crucible (play or film) and you’ll see what I mean. It’s surprising that there haven’t been more films based on the witch trials. Having sat through “The Covenant” I can only hope there is never another attempt at such a film.

The Covenant (2006) begins with a little backstory about the “Ipswich Colony” that was home to five magical families that formed a covenant of silence in order to escape the persecution that was going on at the time. These families passed a magical power (named, with stunning originality, “The Power”) down along the male bloodline to the first born son. The Power manifests itself at age 13 and there’s a period of adjustment up until the age of 18 when The Power gets turned all the way up to it’s highest setting. The Power lets you do all sorts of cool stuff, like fly a bit and move stuff around and look all windswept and interesting or dark and brooding depending on the occasion.

One of the families got a little Power mad and were booted out of the club and their bloodline seems to have died out. Can you guess at this point what happens? Are you thinking that maybe that bloodline didn’t really die out? Hold that thought.

Skip forward about three hundred and twenty odd years up to the present day and we find four lads who are all chums, suitably dark and brooding, come from families that date back to colonial times (and are therefore for some reason all stinking rich) and have The Power. They’re 17 years old and one of the gang, Caleb, is nearly 18 and about to get his full dose of Power. The boys all attend a really really good boarding school that only admits good looking kids. A couple of new kids have just transferred in to the school and one of them, a windswept and interesting looking type called Chase, gets on with the boys quite well.

Remember the thought you were holding? Yep, Chase is the descendant of the fifth family and he has a whopping dose of The Power. You see, The Power isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Every time you use The Power you get your life shortened a little as the human body can’t handle the strain. And using The Power is addictive. Young Chase is in town looking for the boys so that he can get more Power for himself, so he’s keeping up the family tradition, which is nice.

I love you man!

  No I love YOU man!

The Covenant snuck onto the list of 30 Days movies due to its Salem credentials. However, despite all the references to Books of Damnation and witchcraft it is not a horror film. Calling it a supernatural thriller is a stretch. The Covenant is more like a super hero movie as it’s all about wielding The Power and product placement for Mustang and Ducati.

There really isn’t all that much to say about this film beyond it’s just rubbish. To be fair I think you’d love it if you were fourteen as it has teenage girls in their underwear (nothing wrong with that of course) and cool cars and bikes (again, nowt wrong with that) and bugger all in the way of substance. The story is decent and I have to complement Sebastian Stan, the dude who played Chase, as his performance was genuinely excellent, but after twenty minutes of processed, alternative but commercially acceptable rock music, and overly slick visuals, you want more. All the actors in the film, with the obvious exception of the two or three adults, look like they should either be dancing about in a Coke ad or serving Coke in the lobby of the cinema.

The Covenant was mis-sold as having something to do with horror and supernatural goings on, but is really more suitable for audiences suffering from either ADD or photo-sensitive epilepsy (both of which were probably brought on from having seen “Transformers” once too often).

Two Thumbs Down for The Covenant.

To read more (though why you’d want to is a mystery) check out:
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Covenant_%28film%29
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0475944/
For a decent account of the true events in Salem: http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/salem/salem.htm

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