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The Covenant (2017) Review

rsz_cov1THE COVENANT (2017)

Starring Monica Engesser, Maria Olsen and Owen Conway

Directed by Robert Conway

Written by Robert Conway, Owen Conway and Christopher R. Smith

“After the tragic deaths of her husband and daughter, Sarah Doyle moves back to her childhood home with her estranged brother, Richard. It’s not long before Sarah begins to experience supernatural phenomena of a violent and hostile nature. Bewildered and desperate, Richard enlists the help of a paranormal investigator who confirms Sarah has become possessed by a powerful demon. Together, the three men battle to save Sarah’s soul”.

A while ago I reviewed filmmaker Robert Conway’s Krampus: The Reckoning, and felt that, while the film was very flawed and had possibly the worst CGI I’ve seen on film, Conway’s heart was in the right place and there was a director whose love of the genre would push him forward.

So Conway is back with The Covenant, again co-written by Owen Conway, and the rise in filmmaking skill and confidence is actually quite striking since that Yuletide shocker.

rsz_cov2When Sarah’s (Monica Engesser) daughter drowns in the bath in mysterious circumstances, her husband blames her and shoots himself. To cope with her losses, Sarah moves to her childhood home with brother Richard. But it isn’t long before Sarah is being taunted by something strange, and begins to fear she is losing her sanity.

For a film that is clearly no-to-micro-budget, The Covenant is incredibly deft visually, with great compositions and some sweeping camerawork. The editing is tight and controlled and the pace is much more even than some of Conway’s earlier stuff. The grading is a little harsh, but that’s par for the course, and the sound has a few hiccups. But overall on a technical level, Conway is improving.

Engesser has also improved since we last saw her in Krampus, and Owen Conway grows into his role well. But both are helped by a script that is just as interested in characters and conflict as it is scare’s, and while it doesn’t hit the nail on the head with either, it’s a valiant effort. Maria Olsen, still prolific as always, pops up in fine support.

rsz_cov3While the film is never actually scary, it does go to some very unsettling places, dealing with some disturbing taboos that set it apart from the usual possession flick formula.

Look, this ain’t perfect, but for a bargain basement budget, you can do much, much worse. I’m enjoying seeing the confidence grow in these actors and filmmakers, and look forward to what they cook up next.

6/10

Mark Of The Witch aka Another (2014) DVD Review

motw1Mark of the Witch aka Another (2014, USA)

Dir: Jason Bognacki

Starring: Paulie Redding (Credited Paulie Rojas), Maria Olsen, David Landry

UK DVD Release 15th Feb 2016 from Metrodome

Plot: On her eighteenth birthday, Jordyn’s (Redding) life takes a change for the worst. She’s experiencing black outs, waking up in strange places and her loved ones claim to have seen her when they couldn’t have. Jordyn’s Aunt and guardian confesses that this is Jordyn’s fate, her family dark history entangled with witchcraft is coming to claim her.

Mark of the Witch, also known as Another (and The Devil’s Daughter), is the first feature length film by writer/director Jason Bognacki. What we get from Bognacki’s brain is a surreal and nightmarish take on witchcraft mythology. It’s a welcome departure from most modern attempts at witchcraft in cinema which has been fixated on teen witches since The Craft. This film has more in common with Sam Raimi’s Drag Me To Hell than it does The Craft, Jordyn is cursed by the dark spirits tied to her family.

motw2While it has similarities to Drag Me To Hell, Mark of the Witch’s influences are probably closer to Dario Argento or Roger Corman, especially on the visual side of things. The film is packed with dreamy imagery that recalls the likes of Susperia or The Masque of the Red Death. These visuals give the feeling of Jordyn’s life spiralling out of control, although I also found that it made the film quite difficult to keep track of. It has plot points that are “blink and you’ll miss it,” more than once I had to question who certain characters were because I must have blinked. I have never been more thankfully for exposition-heavy dialogue because they were like little reminders about just what the hell was going on, and while they were exposition-heavy, they didn’t feel too forced.

The visual elements of this film are the greatest strength of this film, they set the tone and builds the suspense. However not every visual effect is a winner here, there’s a couple scenes between clashing witches that use CGI fire effects that just looking cheesy, the CGI effect equivalent of bad flame decals on a hot rod. Those fire effects really didn’t help the intensity of those scenes. Another weakness in Mark of the Witch is part of our lead actress’ performance. While Redding does a great job when it comes to be scared and confused, there’s times where she’s supposed to come across that’s she angry, particularly intimidatingly angry. Redding doesn’t seem to have that range, she’s a very cute individual and she sounds more like she’s having a strop than getting into a rage.

motw3I really like Mark of the Witch, specifically because of it’s use of mythology. It’s witchcraft rituals look convincing, and the story’s perspective of a girl trying to fight a witch-based curse is a lot more interesting than most witch films I’ve seen in a while. I feel like it’s the sort of film that I’ll need to watch a few times to really soak up everything that is there, it’s more than just casual viewing.

7/10