Heterosexual director Renny (DIE HARD 2, DEEP BLUE SEA) Harlin has inexplicably slipped over to the other side with his boy-band-of-witches saga, THE COVENANT. He has taken a bunch of Aberzombies, put them in some sort of prep school and given them supernatural powers, forced them to join the swim team, and thrown a few disposable girls in for good measure. And at no point does the plot of the film or the acting interfere with the camera's view of said Aberzombies' abs.
This tale of the "Sons of Ipswitch", the gifted descendants of the founding fathers of Salem, moves along fairly briskly, with some decent effects and fun stunt work, but first and foremost, the real object of the film is to linger lasciviously upon the admirable assets of young, unironically-named Steven Strait. Seriously - the witchcraft, spiders, explosions, raves, and everything else take humble second-stage to loving shots of Strait rocking a tanktop, Strait rocking a tight v-neck t-shirt, Strait wearing a Speedo. We haven't seen male body-worship on this scale since Ryan Reynolds battled evil spirits that threatened to keep him wet and shirtless for Amityville Horror's entire running time.
Strait plays Caleb, a member of an elite band of underwear models who have gone undercover as witches at a prep school in Massachusetts. (You know, so as not to attract attention). Aside from Caleb, there's the long-haired one, the blonde one, and another one who evades description entirely, to the point that it's impossible to identify him in any group scenes. The Metrosexual trickle-down has apparently left our high schools populated by an army of pomade-enhanced, cap-sleeved man-boys who are so self-approvingly pretty that the girls in their lives can do very little to distract them from their vaguely homoerotic navel-gazing. (Whereas DAZED & CONFUSED presented teen angst in a haze of pot smoke, here it is clouded by an overabundance of Axe Body Spray.)
The plot of the film was summed up well enough in the commercials (and is ultimately too mind-numbingly simplistic to get into) -- the important thing is that in this teen witch story, the witches are the popular kids. Rather than your typical "supernaturally enhanced underdog" story (CARRIE, THE CRAFT ), here we watch four rich, white boys who clearly dominate their school and also happen to enjoy a gift that allows them to perform magic. But, watching these kids get everything they want is not nearly as compelling as watching someone who actually NEEDS this power to get back at their enemies or overturn the status quo.
The overwhelming homoeroticism of THE COVENANT includes a scene where Caleb and his best bud Pogue are talking on the phone, and both are shirtless, lying in bed, and drenched with sweat. We seriously expected the words "MEET LOCAL GUYS!" to flash across the top of the screen. There's also some locker room action featuring buns galore and a gay-baiting incident where another young man gets called a "fag" by a different long-haired boy (seriously, it's so hard to tell these guys apart...) and the young man beats his tormenter down - without actually denying the accusation. (Interestingly enough, he even makes reference to looking at the kid's manhood.) At another point an evil Aberzombie pins Caleb to the floor and kisses him on the face roughly -- In a FEAR NO EVIL kind of way, only with far more attractive men involved.
So if you are looking for a satisfying all-male companion piece to the excellent teen-witch thriller THE CRAFT, keep waiting. This isn't it... If - however - you are looking for a warm-up to wet your guests appetites as they arrive for All-Male Porno night, look no further - Renny Harlin has done an admirable job.