The Covenant

Oh Chase, pound me with your force balls
★★
☆☆☆☆
Released: 
2006
Director: 
Renny Harlin
Starring: 
Steven Strait, Laura Ramsey, Sebastian Stan, Taylor Kitsch
The Setup: 
Group of boys have these powers, but age rapidly the more they use them.
Discussion: 

So a thoughtful reader wrote me to say "Seriously dude, why have you not reviewed this?" and I confess I had no good answer. I mean, aside from that it is total teen crap, but, like that has ever stopped me before.

We open with five text panels telling us about this long lineage of male witches who wield "The Power," who came to Ipswitch and went into hiding around the time of the Salem witch trials. Then we have the typical credits that show a bunch of parchment pages with graphics of anything vaguely spooky, made to convince us that these phenomena date back to like, WAY long ago. We now meet our band of four pretty-boy make witches, straight out of an Abercrombie catalog and looking like they're about to break into "I'm a Sorcerer (4 U)" at any moment. They look down on an illegal beach party from a high cliff, wanting to jump down, and allowing Caleb, our sensitive hero, to deliver his first "C'mon, guys!" in argument that they just take the stairs like mortals. But no, the cliff it is. They jump down, and director Renny Harlin chooses to put his credit over THIS image:

So Caleb meets pretty blonde Sarah, who likes him despite the presence of the last girl he picked up and dropped. This is soon followed by a run into the forest, and then a high-speed police chase. Somehow they end up high on a cliff [let's just accept the unlikely geography] and the guys unite--over Caleb's protestations again--to run their car right off the cliff. The cops are staring dumbfounded when the guys' SUV lands right behind their car, and they take off to freedom. It's a hot priviledged party life to be a witch, yo!

Then Caleb goes home to this ludicrously huge mansion with large reflecting pool out front, where he lives with his crazy mom. She whips out the uber-drama to berate him for using his powers, and her fears for him given his upcoming 18th birthday, when he will "ascend" and attain full power. She saw what happened to his father, etc. You see, it's easy to get "addicted" to using these powers, and they age you a bit every time you use them. Totally troubling.

Meanwhile Sarah and her black roommate, Kate, are chilling in their dorm, which seems to be deserted aside from them, and looks like a converted 1910's-era newspaper office. Sarah goes to take a shower, where she is menaced by a lecherous steam-man. Then Reed, the arrogant blond witch who uses his powers recklessly, SUDDENLY appears in her dorm. She feels spooked, and Caleb senses that someone's been using their powers for evil.

So then later Caleb is sensing some disturbance in the force, I mean the power, and all of a sudden there's a dead guy in his car. This can result in driver distraction, and he indeed slams head-on into a huge truck, his car exploding... then reassembling on the other side. You'll notice that our hero Caleb doesn't bother to go back and check to make sure that the driver of the truck he nearly sent off the road is okay. What a great guy!

Then the guys assemble in the kind of massive dive biker bar that only exists in movies, where the tough, grizzled bikers just LOVE hanging out with arrogant pretty-boy college kids! These tough bikers also are among the throngs getting down when Sarah strides across the room to put on Joan Jett's "I Love Rock n' Roll." Yeah, forget Skynerd, bikers totally jam on Joan Jett! Look at the frame below to see the look of total admiration the rough biker bartender sends toward pretty boy Pouge. Bikers just wanna BE them!

SPOILERS > > >
So that night Sarah has a nasty--and fairly effective--dream in which her bed, then her entire room, is teeming with spiders. So effective that I had a dream that night in which I came into the kitchen and there was a black spider egg the size of a grapefruit hanging from the ceiling, with a huge black bug on it, ruffling its wings in a way that said: "Do NOT fuck with me." Once again, Caleb senses that someone is using their magic for evil, and Pogue reports seeing the same dead kid Caleb saw. I've finished the movie and I have to say I still have no idea who the dead kid was. Please don't write and tell me, because I don't care. Then Sarah is in the library when she starts reading all about the "Sons of Ipswich," in an ancient edition you'll note is rather LAVISHLY illustrated. She realizes that Caleb's cru are all their descendants. By the way, by now you might be moved to observe that it sure does rain a lot around that campus.

Then it's off to swim practice where the boys are down to Speedos and it's all abs, abs, abs. Now, you may have heard that this movie is awash in homoerticism, and, well, this scene will not do much to disabuse you of that notion. Not to mention the locker-room scene that immediately follows, in which we have the below shot. I love the guy with arm upraised at center-left. WHAT is he doing? Just straight-out posing?

Now I haven't mentioned the presence of this other dude at school, Chase, who is assumed mortal, but after some swim practice witchery, suspicion now falls on him. Then they find out Kate has been taken to the hospital with numerous spider bites. Then we see that the guys have some kind of batcave, filled with hundreds of candles! Normally in these movies I amuse myself by imagining one of them going around lighting all 300 of the atmospheric candles, but here we see they do it with mind power. Anyway, they quickly surmise that Chase is the descendent of the fifth family of witches, one they thought had died out, but what do ya know? Turns out he killed his own parents the second he got his powers. Pouge finds out Kate [his gf] is in the hospital, runs off to save her, and is promptly killed by Chase. So now it's ON!

Caleb goes to Sarah's room to find Chase there. Chase tells him the plan: he wants Caleb to will his powers to Chase, who has become addicted, upon ascending, which will kill Caleb. Those looking for a homo subtext will find their eyebrows raised when Chase climbs atop a prostrate Caleb--and then feel confirmed when Chase kisses him.

Then we have the moment where Caleb takes Sarah to meet his parents! Only it's really to show her his dad, who is a shriveled old man only slightly more sprightly than Grandpa from Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Turns out--he's only 44! But he used his powers too much, you see. Seems pretty rude to bring your date by to stare at your own dad like he's some kind of specimen, especially as no one addresses the father directly and he is explictly used as an example of the awful things that can happen to you. Dude, the guy's RIGHT THERE. But we already knew that Chase was a bit of a prick. We now have the shot below--WTF? Is this a brochure for a romantic getaway in Montreal?

Then, well, it all comes down to the guys' force balls. You see, these guys have battles by gathering balls of CGI distortion that are supposed to be... like... well, force balls. They whip them at each other and get thrown through this wall or that pile of boxes or whatnot. So Chase is ramming his force balls into Caleb, demanding that the young buck let loose and shoot his power all over him, but Caleb has some large, throbbing force balls of his own, and he pounds Chase with them mercilessly. In fact, sometimes when Chase whips his balls at Caleb with force, Caleb grabs them in both hands and holds them gently but firmly. In the middle of all this, Caleb ascends, which means a bunch of light shoots into his body, meaning he attaining full power. But even that isn't enough to stop the sheer pounding power of Chase's balls. It's looking like Caleb will have to bow in submission to the awesome power of Chase's balls when, unbeknownst to them, Mom persuades shriveled up old dad to will the power of HIS balls into Caleb--since Dad very likely won't be using his force balls anytime soon--and being a sport, dad does, effectively killing himself. Then there's lightning in the sky! And you're like man--it's ON! And then Caleb and Chase fight some more, and then Dad wills his power to Caleb and there's lightning, and you're like--wait, I thought that already happened?

But the plain fact is, ladies and gentlemen, that when your body is infused with pure, raw ball force, you know it. Caleb gets his daddy's power put right inside him, and uses it to conceive balls of such great potency that even chase must yeild in submission. By the end of the film, there is little doubt who possesses the true power balls.
< < < SPOILERS END

Oh my. What to make of this. It is very much what you expect in terms of quite average contemporary teen horror-thriller, with a cast of models who smolder and glower and throw poses, display their abs, and never appear in less than the latest Abercrombie fashions with a full complement of hair product backing them up. This is the kind of movie made to separate teens from their money on opening weekend, and aims to do nothing more than provide something on the screen in front of them while they make out and text plans to go to Dave & Buster's later. It kind of vaguely appeals to what would be distilled into the Twilight market, what with gorgeous upper-class teen characters and a vague supernatural vibe. I'm here trying to explain, but actually I can't really come up with why anyone would write a story like this.

One of the issues, if you're going to attempt to take this seriously, is that, despite the supposed dilemma that using these powers ages one prematurely, is that our characters are using their powers all the time in this movie and barely suffer so much as a headache or an ingrown hair. This weighs against one's ability to really consider the central issue of the film to be a real problem. But of course it's not--this film is just to showcase new fashions and hair product and hot abs. A goal which it achieves with ease.

I can't think of much more to say about this movie. Oh, except that it's clear that Renny Harlin is a quite capable director, and several of his compositions are interesting and lively, in addition to knowing his way around a action scene. I guess it's too bad his career has veered off the way it has, but I'm okay with his churning out pulp. I'd just prefer a little more Deep Blue Sea and a little less The Covenant. But it is doubtful much sleep is being lost around this issue.

Should you watch it: 

If you're over sixteen, I can't see much reason for that.