“The Covenant” (2017) : You too will sell your soul to escape seeing this film

Why is that Horror, of all the genres that benefited from digital cinema’s low cost film-making revolution, has been the most inundated with poorly-made films? It’s a question that has more than one answer but none of those answers relieve the frustration felt when trying to get through one of these types of films. No one sets out to make a bad film because to shoot one is an undertaking like no other. Whether shoe-string or tent-pole budget, blood, sweat and tears are poured into a production. Sitting through a movie with an underwhelming story, poor dialogue and bad acting hurts but it hurts even more when I strain to hear the dialogue and squint to see the details. The Covenant falls into that category of horror that looks like more time and attention was spent on the poster that the movie itself.

The Covenant tells the story of Sarah Doyle (Monica Engesser) whose young daughter tragically drowns in the family’s bathtub in somewhat dubious circumstances. Doyle’s husband (Chris Mascarelli) depressed and undone confronts Sarah casting blame on her only to commit suicide afterwards. Some time later a defeated Sarah reconnects with her brother Richard (Owen Conway who also serves as co-writer) as together they move into their deceased mother’s home hoping to heal wounds old and new. Things start to go awry and as pipes burst and leak so does Sarah’s personality begin the change. Richard busies himself with home repairs but finds himself continually accosted by a mysterious man (Richard Lippert) who confronts him with intimate details of he and Sarah’s lives. Meanwhile Sarah’s degenerates into self-destructive behavior injuring herself and proclaiming to see visions of her dead daughter while slowly starting to show the signs of possession. Richard, a recovering alcoholic struggles to stay sober but after a particularly harrowing encounter with his sister he falls off the wagon and seeks refuge at the local pub until he is approached by a pretty young woman whom he beds, that afterwards turns out to be Sarah all along -maybe.

Confused? You should be. Brought to you by writer/director Robert Conway (Krampus: The Reckoning), The Covenant seems at times to be a haunted house piece, conspiratorial, body-horror, possession and even a dark riff on The Burbs with strange neighbors poking about but it does no justice to any of these motifs largely due to the incoherent script and technical issues that plague the film.

Created and distributed by  production company Funhouse Features, the team by behind  Krampus: The Reckoning  and Krampus: Unleashed, you’d think a company with even a couple of features under it’s belt would have better quality control on the work but watching The Covenant is like watching a final-year film school project. Ambitious and rife with earnestness and effort but painful, misguided and at times, embarrassing. Visually, The Covenant feels like someone put an Instagram filter on it. Blacks are crushed, contrast is high, colors and hues pop in uncomplimentary ways. Characters are buried in the dark with no shadow detail to deliver even the faintest subtleties. For this film, director Robert Conway operates the camera as well and it doesn’t help. Above all, the poor audio is the ultimate culprit here. Nothing takes a viewer out a movie faster than dialogue that sounds like it was recorded in a bathroom at a 7-11. I had to replay sections several times over to decipher exactly what was being spoken.

The Covenant isn’t committing any crimes. It doesn’t insult the audience and the actors are present and trying but at a time when nearly anyone with ambition and limited resource can produce a feature, to be mediocre at best and lost in the crowd ultimately only hurts the product and it’s filmmakers more than anyone else.

The Covenant  1 out of 5 stars (1 / 5)

Alan Kelly
Alan Kelly, a native of Toronto, Canada has worked as a professional in the film industry for over a decade. A fervent lover of film and animation since childhood he was always fascinated by the process of filmmaking and practical effects, always holding a special place in his heart for Horror. No trip to the rental store was complete without flipping the boxes in the horror section to see the forbidden fruit. After shooting countless short films as a youth he went to art school for classical animation but switched gears to pursue filmmaking. Years later he was accepted into the camera guild and starting as an apprentice camera assistant, worked his way up through the department in every genre from low/no budget to tent pole features and acclaimed films including the Academy Award winning 'Spotlight' (2016 Best Picture). Currently he is a camera operator/steadicam operator for features and television.