Following a brief history lesson and one of the most asinine opening sequences in recent movie history it becomes apparent that four friends--Caleb (Steven Strait) Pogue (Taylor Kitsch) Reid (Toby Hemingway) and Tyler (Chace Crawford)--possess superhuman powers. In fact the four share an unbreakable bond: Direct descendants of the original settlers of Ipswich Colony during the Salem witch trials of the late 1600s they all inherited their ancestors’ supernatural powers. When they turn 18 they “ascend ” gaining even more potent--but addictive--powers. With Caleb’s 18th just days away his mother (Wendy Crewson) worries about him because each time a magical power is put to use the user ages prematurely and the powers are addictive. But with his girlfriend (Laura Ramsey) in grave danger and an outsider (Sebastian Stan) threatening to infringe on the group’s sacred name and ancestry will Caleb be able to resist? Well it’s official: If you want to break into acting looks are everything. If you look fresh out of the pages of an Abercrombie & Fitch catalog you can act--even if you can’t act! The guys in The Covenant might not be quite that bad but the acting’s just not pretty especially compared to these dudes (it’s a backhanded compliment!). Strait (Undiscovered) Covenant’s resident movie veteran with five films under his belt absolutely has enough Abercrombie in him to warrant infinite chances to get it right but he makes Keanu Reeves look like Robin Williams--or a snail like a cheetah. The rest of the actors tend to overact where Strait underacts. Kitsch a bottle beefcake with one hell of an ironic last name and Hemingway (an equally ironic last name) both seem to think they’re in some throwaway teen horror flick instead of a throwaway supernatural thriller. And the other relative newcomer Stan comes close to decency but undoes his good towards the end. Uwe Boll gets a lot of flak for his films but how ‘bout throwing some hate Renny Harlin’s way?! Harlin has the ability to be a good director--as evidenced on Die Hard 2 and Cliffhanger--but that ability has been M.I.A. for over a decade. Fresh off 2004’s clunkeriffic duo of Exorcist: The Beginning and Mindhunters (the latter not being released until last year) Harlin has unfortunately added to his canon o’ crap with The Covenant. Though not nearly as much his fault as it is the actors’ the film remains a directorial mess no thanks to the muddled script from The Forsaken writer J.S. Cardone. Despite the characters trying to spell the story out for us it’s still somewhat hazy and its brief moments of clarity provide little to enjoy. Nice cinematography allows for scarce fun but such scenes turn the movie into an underwhelming Matrix/Underworld hybrid in place of an actual mystery. All in all some teenagers might appreciate the thrills and the loud music but fans of the occult surely won’t.
Sean (Kerr Smith) takes a week off from his job in Los Angeles to attend his sister's wedding in Miami and deliver a car at the same time. But the owner has one rule: No hitchhikers! As this titillating bit of foreshadowing suggests Sean gets a flat tire on a deserted highway loses his wallet and has no choice but to pick up hitchhiker Nick (Brendan Fehr) who offers to cover the cost of gas. What Sean soon finds out is that Nick is actually hunting down the leader of a band of roving vampires and he must kill him in order to avoid becoming a vampire himself. On their trek they find Megan (Izabella Miko) also a victim of the telepathic "vampire virus " and use her as bait to lure the undead to sacred grounds and lop off their heads. A hesitant Sean is forced to play along after Megan bites him. If the story is hard follow don't worry--Sean and Nick rehash the plot each time they sit down to eat.
The performances in this film are passable at best. While Dawson's Creek heartthrob Smith and Roswell's Fehr work as best they can with such a silly script they spend most of the film sweaty grimy and on the run. Johnathon Schaech plays lead vampire Kit who looks creepy enough but never really says much. The same goes for his sidekicks Cym (Phina Oruche) and Teddy (Alexis Thorpe) except they don't even try to be eerie they just walk around pouting seductively in tight short outfits. Miko as the film's waifish bait spends most of the 105 minutes in a half-naked and morphine-induced state. In the rare instances when she is not being carried in someone's arm she is either screaming or spitting up blood. Not much talent needed there but perhaps this is for the best: when she finally does muster a line in the film's final moments you almost wish she hadn't.
Loaded with shots of Sean's vintage Mercedes driving down Arizona highways with sunset backdrops and loud music The Forsaken at times looks and feels like a music video. The special effects which consist mostly of blood and gore are so basic that you can almost see the fake blood capsules spurting out of the actors' mouths. And because the lighting is so stark and the action scenes shot so tightly it is hard to get a sense of who is shooting at whom. In terms of suspense director J.S. Cardone uses every trick in the horror movie handbook resulting in predictable scenarios seen a hundred times before only this time they're worse. This lack of originality coupled with lame scares and virtually no screams is--as one might expect--ultimately this film's downfall. It's too derivative of horror movies of the past (think Vampires and The Hitcher). A shame really. There hasn't been a good teen horror film in a quite some time.