The Covenant, 2017.
Directed by Robert Conway.
Starring Monica Engesser, Clint James, Owen Conway, Sanford Gibbons, and Maria Olson.
After the tragic deaths of her husband and daughter, Sarah Doyle moves back to her childhood home with her estranged brother, Richard. It’s not long before Sarah begins to experience supernatural phenomena of a violent and hostile nature. Bewildered and desperate, Richard enlists the aid of a paranormal investigator who confirms that Sarah has become possessed by a powerful demon. Together, the three men will go to battle to save Sarah’s soul.
I love a good horror film. Only today I discovered the local haunted caves near myself will be playing home to a pop-up cinema playing a selection of films including The Exorcist and The Shining. That sort of ingenious idea fills me with excitement. Now granted these great horrors don’t have to necessarily be screened in bat infested, haunted caves to be fully effective, because they’ve been crafted well enough that the setting for your viewing pleasure, whether Cave, Cinema or couch, will have the same end result…spare underpants time.
There aren’t too many genre’s that engage your pulse and adrenaline quite like horror at its most effective. The action genre is one, but there are a couple of big differences between the two genre’s. Horror is more forgiving and more feasible when the budget for said film is low, or in the case of something like The Covenant, almost non-existent. I’ve probably spent more on a Happy Meal than the film-makers spent on this film (Hyperbole alert…repeat hyperbole alert). However, it’s not how much you spend, it’s how effectively you craft your story, reel in the audience and affect them.
The Covenant tells the story of a woman who loses her daughter to Leukaemia and subsequently husband to suicide (after he blames her for their daughter’s death). She later moves back to her old family home with her estranged brother. As they settle back into their old home it soon becomes clear that she’s been possessed by an evil spirit. With the help of a priest and paranormal investigator, the brother sets about ridding her of the demon.
Plot-wise it’s your standard Exorcist cover (hence my opening ramble). If this were a classic song cover on The X-Factor, this would be one of those acts, normally a chicken farmer or something, that comes in and delivers a terrible rendition before drifting back into obscurity. Well in actuality, the fact I remember a chicken farmer from an X-Factor audition in years gone by is probably the wrong analogy. Perhaps one of those auditions that is bad, but painfully boring. The sort that probably doesn’t make the cut for TV because it’s not, I suppose to its credit, comically bad. The Covenant isn’t good. The budget is really low but that’s not a stool to put excuses on. Better horrors have probably been shot for less. Paranormal Activity, whilst vastly overrated, or indeed Blair Witch (likewise) hit a pop-culture wave, spawned sequels and contributed to innumerable found footage films (a sub-genre that’s run its course perhaps more than any other).
The trouble with The Covenant is that there is absolutely no life in the film. Granted it’s a film that spends the majority of its runtime dealing with death, but there’s just no zip, no energy and no engagement. The photography, though nicely framed, is flat and dreary. The direction is lacklustre, the editing cumbersome and the sound is high school video production level. The performances are dull too and the film takes itself very seriously. There’s a catch 22 with bad films. Were they given the benefit of hindsight, a wink, nudge and injection of ham here and there could have made them comical and then a bit more engaging.
Whilst the premise has been covered more times than Donald Trump’s chrome dome, it doesn’t take away from the fact that the film doesn’t fulfil its potential. They could still have made a watchable horror film. Richard Conway who directed (and co-write with the lead, Owen Conway) has approached the film with functionality in mind, but a lack of flair that’s unfortunately telling. Even the most ardent horror fan will struggle to get through this one. I most certainly give credit though, as with any uber-low budget, indie film-maker, in getting the film made in the first place. It’s an increasingly difficult thing to do and obtaining money to shoot a film is probably going to be the subject of a Mission: Impossible film one of these days. So in that regard I doth my cap to the Conways.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★