‘The Covenant,’ A Dark, Uncomfortable Possession Flick
By: Nicholas J. Spacek
Directed by Robert Conway, Uncork’d Entertainment’s latest, The Covenant, is a demonic possession picture from the director of Krampus Unleashed, and starring several of Uncork’d’s regular retinue of performers.
The film’s plot is fairly straightforward: Sarah Doyle (played by Monica Engesser) loses both her daughter, Elizabeth, and husband, Adam, in tragic circumstances when, Adam commits suicide in front of Sarah, blaming her for the loss of a leukemia-suffering Elizabeth to a drowning in the bathtub. To cope, she moves back into her childhood home, wherein also lives Richard, her estranged brother. It’s not long before Sarah begins to experience supernatural phenomena of a violent and hostile nature. Their first night in the house, she’s already experiencing mysterious visions. When the neighbors visit with pie, a crucifix burns its mark into one of their chests. The strange things only increase from there.
There’s mysterious symbols, visions, bodily disfigurement, and your standard assortment of possession-related horrors, so it’s readily apparent that at some point, things are going to move towards an exorcism attempt. Thanks to some madness from Engesser’s performance, it plays a lot like The Devil’s Advocate, with Engesser conjuring reminders of Charlize Theron’s vulnerability.
Brother Richard, as played by Owen Conway, has kind of a Ted Raimi thing going on — he’s a little goofy, but genuinely full of enthusiastic good intentions. The script, by both Conway and Christopher R. Smith, isn’t quite as humor-tinged as Robert Conway’s other films — not surprising, given that the two main characters are dealing with multiple deaths in their family, past alcoholism, and a house which offers up myriad evils. It’s a slow burn to the real shockers, but The Covenant’s story allows for some moments of genuine discomfort as it builds to the big scenes. Many of those moments are due to veteran genre actress Maria Olsen, who offers up her take on the “person making ominous warnings” so necessary to the horror genre.
There is, of course, a priest and his assistant, who are out to save the world and convince the disbelieving public that demons walk among them. They’re not unlike the Warrens in the Conjuring series, complete with slide shows and presentations in front of an auditorium. Their appearance in the film’s latter portion is what moves The Covenant towards its denouement, which in the end, blasts along in a whirl of strange, bloody weirdness. The last third of the film brings The Covenant to a conclusion which makes things just as dark and uncomfortable as the hour which preceded it. It’s a bit perplexing, but certainly in keeping with Conway’s tone throughout.
Uncork’d Entertainment’s The Covenant is available on demand starting February 7.