The latest from a generation of filmmakers whose influence stems primarily from WB sitcom aesthetics and PlayStation video-game storylines, The Covenant falls into theaters like a fashion magazine adapted to the screen. Despite the plethora of sweaty six-packs and shapely female curves on display here, the rhythms of the film are anything but titillating, its assault-on-the-senses construct mistaking reckless noise and nonstop motion as an appropriate substitute for entertainment (the opening credits sequence alone has damn near as many cuts as the entirety of Moulin Rouge, sans any sense of visual intrigue). When the film doesn’t further increase the ADD rates of the latest MTV generation (perfectly approximated by one character who giddily wants to see “that new Brad Pitt flick,” which I think we can safely assume is not intended to be Babel), it half-heartedly passes off characters so void of personality that even their facial features barely manage to distinguish one from the other.
Lifting a page from The Lost Boys, The Covenant concerns a foursome of male teenagers (known locally as the “Brothers of Ipswitch”) endowed with witchcraft-like powers, their lineage extending back to early uritan America when their families were bound together by a code of secrecy so as to avoid persecution. Those who overuse the incredibly addictive power rapidly drain their life force, and when it becomes apparent that an unknown who possesses the same abilities is within their midst, the previously strained tensions quickly build to a head. It’s hard to decide what’s more flimsy: the film’s sense of social placement (it doesn’t so much examine the cliques central to its plot as it does cater to them) or its explanation of what the mystical “power” these strutting dudes have actually is (as near as I can tell, it’s the ability to fly, to reassemble broken things, and to throw jelly-like, translucent blobs really, really fast). To suggest that it’s some kind of metaphor for either the corruptive nature of power or the destructive force of drugs is to give the film tenfold more reading than it actually deserves, but if the quality of this special-effects debacle is any sort of parallel to the current status of mainstream American culture, then The Covenant surely is a sign o’ the times.