A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the movie posits four handsome prep school students as descendents of witches, with destructive powers and arrogant attitudes. The film's violence includes plenty of bodies slamming against/through walls, as evidence of the "force" the boys wield, as well as cars flying off a cliff, crashing, and exploding, and spells that send girls into convulsive comas. A dead body alarms a policeman who discovers it in a car. A girl is threatened by a ghostlike figure in the shower. Prep school-aged characters drink, and talk about the power as addictive (alluding to drugs, sort of). A mother smokes and drinks liquor to show her displeasure with her life married to a selfish male witch. Some profanity.
What's the story?
The four coolest and most intimidating boys at Spenser Academy in Ipswich, Massachusetts share a secret: As legend has it, their ancestors were witches, accused and abused at the Salem trials, and the boys have powers. Caleb (Steven Strait) realizes that using their powers too much is dangerous: Using them too much in fact can deplete them, which happened to Caleb's 44-year-old father. So he starts to warn his friends -- Pogue (Taylor Kitsch), Reid (Toby Hemingway), and Tyler (Chace Crawford) -- to cut back on the use of their powers. A new student, Chase (Sebastian Stan), insinuates himself into the boys' group. He seems naïve and in need of protection, which Caleb offers, but it turns out Chase is the descendent of yet another witchy family, and means to suck the power out of all the other boys.
Is it any good?
More nonsensical than scary, THE COVENANT conjures a cautionary tale for prep school pretties. Chase reframes the good-bad dynamic in Ipswich: No longer is the bossy daredevil Pogue the reigning terror in town. Now Chase poses a real menace, not only to Caleb, but to all righteous witchy types, for he'll soon need to suck up their powers as well. Besides, Chase starts tormenting Caleb's crush, Sarah (Laura Ramsey), with spells and spiders, so that Caleb just has to take a stand. Or rather, he has to engage in a knockdown, drag-out hellfires-a-blazing battle at the old estate, where he and Chase throw pitchforks and plows at one another while thunder crashes.
It's lots of noise for nothing. Though director Renny Harlin knows something about putting pretty kids in danger (he made the underappreciated Nightmare on Elm Street: Dream Warriors way back in 1988), here the effects look cheesy and the characters flummoxed by an incoherent script that mostly devises ways for them to throw one another against glass objects -- windows, mirrors, crates of bottles. And when that fails, they go back to leaping off cliffs.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the seductive nature of "power," whether metaphorical or literalized here. How does the movie suggest that power might be used in a positive way, as well as to prove oneself superior or to control others? How does the movie compare power to an addictive substance? You can discuss the Salem Witch Trials, jumping to conclusions, or judging people who seem different.
- In theaters: September 8, 2006
- On DVD or streaming: January 2, 2007
- Cast: Chace Crawford, Laura Ramsey, Steven Strait
- Director: Renny Harlin
- Studio: Sony Pictures
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 97 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: intense sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images, sexual content, partial nudity and language.
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