The Covenant

(2006)  1/2 Pg-13
97 min. Screen Gems. Director: Renny Harlin. Cast: Steven Strait, Sebastian Stan, Laura Ramsey, Taylor Kitsch, Toby Hemingway.

Where do WB pilots go when they die? Perhaps they're reincarnated as lousy supernatural thrillers like The Covenant, which seems to be an elaborate excuse to foist upon us the lastest roster of post-teen genetic freaks.

Screenwriter J.S. Cardone (or someone) threw in a crack about boy bands, but The Covenant resembles the remark, with its dark, handsome, brooding "hero" Caleb (Stephen Strait) and his three lifelong himbo friends ("like brothers"): long-hair-in-leather Pogue (Taylor Kitsch), platinum-blond Jesse McCartney lookalike Reid (Toby Hemingway), and "other guy" Tyler (Chace Crawford, poor fellow).

In a halfhearted stab at sinister white privilege, the boys attend the Spencer Academy, a WASPy Massachusetts prep school. The descendants of five families that settled the Ipswitch colony in the 1800s, the four young men have near-unlimited supernatural powers, but each use ages them and draws them closer to addiction. As for that hinky math, the fifth descendant—presumed to be out of the next-generational pool turns up and joins the swim team as he plots to seize yet more power.

Feel free to try to grasp all the nonsense about darklings (huh?), witch trials, and paganism. It's hard enough to accept that these kids have untold powers and use them willy nilly while leading preposterously active night lives (is insomnia a superpower?), but they also "ascend" at age eighteen to wield yet greater power. Why? To provide a climactic showdown for one of the mealiest plots of the year.

Unfortunately for director Renny Harlin (who's sunk to a new low here, from a career high of Die Hard 2), the batch of interchangeable heroes inspire no empathy. Entitled, ungrateful weenies aren't endearing—they're just slightly more likeable than an entitled, ungrateful, evil weenie. Sculpted bods, pretty faces, and perfect teeth only go so far, right? Oh, who am I kidding?

The two young women in the picture are hideously stereotyped as living only for boys (except, instead of curlers and pajama parties, they take late-night showers and lounge in their underwear). At the film's lowest point, the pair cheerily reinforce traditional gender roles. Kate (Jessica Lucas) excuses the boys from ignoring them: "You know boys and their toys," and Sarah (Laura Ramsey) replies, "I'll show you what girls do." For the record, girls play "I Love Rock 'N' Roll" on the jukebox and dance flirtily.

To save you the trouble of sitting through this joyless teen Gothic, here are the "high points": discreet, PG-13 shower scenes for both sexes; two pointless scenes that waste Kenneth Welsh (Twin Peaks) as the school's provost; rain, thunder, and lightning in bulk; a hackneyed but skillfully executed spider attack; and the aforementioned climax, a Mortal Kombat-esque fight staged in what appears to be Smallville's barn (and scored to thrashing guitar).

A flying car prompts Reid to shout, "Harry Potter can kiss my ass!" but even teens will recognize that The Covenant can't hold a wand to the giant franchise. Not that Screen Gems won't try: the groundwork for a sequel is dutifully laid, with the ingenues no doubt off to Harvard (their top choice) and the conspicuous escape of the villain.

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