Movie Review: THE COVENANT (2017)

The latest effort from Robert Conway (KRAMPUS UNLEASHED, THE ENCOUNTER) tells the unfortunate story of Sarah Doyle, a woman suffering from the loss of her husband and child, after she moves into her childhood home with her brother Richard.  On the surface, THE COVENANT is yet another possession film in a long, sad line of direct to video releases, however there’s a bit more to this film than split pea soup and inverted crucifixes (crucifi?).

The film opens with the necessary exposition to get us into the meat and potatoes of the film. Sarah and her husband are attending the funeral of their daughter.  Later that night, we see her husband accusing her of their child’s death before he goes on to redecorate their bathroom wall with brain matter.  Fast forward a bit, and Sarah has moved into her childhood home at the insistence of her brother Richard.  He claims that being in a familiar setting will help her find her grounding, despite her repeated complaints of how much she loathes the place.  Of course, it doesn’t take long before Sarah starts seeing visions of her daughter on swing sets and experiencing other forms of paranormal phenomena.  Spookiness ensues.

What I didn’t expect going into the film is that a majority of it is focused on Sarah’s brother, Richard, as opposed to Sarah herself.  Similar to THE EXORCIST, we see Richard’s struggles with dealing with Sarah’s unexpected behavioral changes, which he initially attributes to the grief over the loss of her family.  Richard, who was absent from Sarah’s life for the past decade is working to reconcile his relationship with his sister.  He is a recovering alcoholic, he’s handy and he’s there for his sister in her time of need.  Owen Conway delivers a solid performance as Richard, much more so than Monica Engesser (Sarah), whose own performance felt forced and insincere.

While the first two acts follow the prototypical demonic possession format, there is a nice little surprise in the third act that takes the story down a route that I don’t think I’ve ever really seen a film like this take.  It felt refreshing, different and a tad bit taboo and I praise Conway for taking the risk.  While overall I enjoyed the film, I do think that it suffered due to budgetary constrains, and while it was inventive in ways, it relied on too many cliches in others.  It was an entertaining film though and I do think that I would be willing to see what Conway has up his sleeve next.  I’m not entirely sure if I would recommend paying to view it but I’m sure that it will end up in the annals of the Netflix horror selection for you to toss on when you can’t decide on anything else to watch.

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