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Film review: 'Covenant' lame, not scary

Published: Saturday, Sept. 9 2006 12:00 a.m. MDT

"THE COVENANT" — * 1/2 — Steven Strait, Sebastian Stan, Laura Ramsey; rated PG-13 (violence, profanity, drugs, partial nudity, vulgarity); Carmike 12 and Ritz 15 Theaters; Century Theatres 16 (Sandy); Century Theatres 16 (South Salt Lake); Cinemark 24 at Jordan Landing; Megaplex 12 at The Gateway; Megaplex 17 at Jordan Commons; Megaplex 20 at the District; Red Carpet 5-Star and Gateway 8 Cinemas; Redwod Drive-in; Westates Holladay Centre Cinemas 6.

The scariest thing about "The Covenant" is that it may be even more lame than its source material.

This yawn-inducing horror-thriller — sort of a male take on "The Craft" — is based on an ill-conceived comic-book miniseries — but the cinematic adaptation makes the printed version look miles better.

The film is not at all suspenseful or creepy, and the cast was apparently chosen for looks rather than acting ability.

The film's title refers to an ancient sorcerous pact between New England families. As a result, four teenagers — Caleb (Steven Strait), Pogue (Taylor Kitsch), Reid (Toby Hemingway) and Tyler (Chace Crawford) — have inherited magical powers.

But, of course, there's an unfortunate side effect. If they overuse their powers, the young sorcerers age prematurely.

They may have no choice in the matter, however, since another magician has apparently surfaced — someone who clearly has it in for the teens.

This clunker is another nail in the coffin for filmmaker Renny Harlin. His direction here is workmanlike at best, and some of the action scenes appear to have been influenced strongly by video games.

Of course, it's not like the script (courtesy of screenwriter J.S. Cardone, who also co-wrote the comics) is grade-A material.

And the acting is almost laughably wooden, especially Josh Hartnett-soundalike Strait ("Sky High").

"The Covenant" is rated PG-13 for strong scenes of horror violence (including sorcerous attacks, some fisticuffs, vehicular violence and explosive mayhem), scattered profanity and crude sexual slang, drug content (mostly references), and partial male and female nudity. Running time: 97 minutes.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com