J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

The Covenant: Catholics vs. Evil on VOD

Last month the great William Peter Blatty passed away. He was truly an American original, who changed the face of horror cinema. Without The Exorcist, an entire subgenre would not exist, at least not to any great extent. Just about every subsequent demonic possession movie owes a debt to Blatty and his creation, most definitely including Robert Conway’s The Covenant (trailer here), which releases today on VOD.

Sarah Doyle is having a really rough go of things. Her daughter recently died (but not of her terminal illness) and her husband committed suicide (after essentially accusing her of the murder/mercy killing of little Elizabeth). To buoy her spirits, her brother Richard has the bright idea of moving them back to their long vacant childhood home. However, it turns out the musty house is a bad environment—real bad. First, she starts having visions of Elizabeth, but she soon develops a case of full-onset possession.

Her brother was already alarmed by a creepy old Satanic cult leader, who keeps dogging him, making heavy, portentous threats. However, he the hard-nosed Father Francis Campbell might just be the right Vatican ghost-buster for the job. He is a little scruffy, but that perversely builds confidence.

Right, so Covenant is pretty standard issue possession stuff, looking in a problematically dingy, pedestrian manner, but it is elevated by a surprisingly strong cast. Monica Engesser has a rather alluringly distinctive look that is quite well suited for the grieving Hellfire hot mom. Clint James channels his western movie experience, making Father Campbell a Bible-slinging high plains exorcist, which is cool. When he says “we’re going to have to cancel Bakersfield,” you know its serious. Richard Lippert is all kinds of steely evil as the Satanist stalker, while horror regular Maria Olsen twitches like mad as the super-Christian across the street.

As in Blatty’s work, evil is very real in the world of The Covenant—down right seductive, in fact. However, it lacks Blatty’s Catholic vision of love and sacrifice overcoming the worst cruelty and depravity. For consumers, it is an okay time-killer, but for aspiring horror filmmakers, it is time well spent as potential cast scouting. Recommended or whatever accordingly, The Covenant is now available on VOD platforms, including iTunes.

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