“Sexy” Rip-Off of ‘The Craft’ Fails in Almost Every Way

by Nick Spacek on July 14, 2020

in Print Reviews,Reviews

[Rating: Rock Fist Way Down]

Director Margaret Malandruccolo‘s Coven (on DVD and digital July 14 from Uncork’d Entertainment) is a college-aged update of the ’90s teen witch favorite, The Craft. From a script by Lizze Gordon, who also stars as protagonist, Sophie, the movie is a trash fest with big goals, but modest proportions.

“Five undergrad witches come together in order to perform a ritual to invoke the ancient powers of the witch Ashura. The leader of the coven gets carried away and accidentally kills one of the witches during the ritual. She needs the strength of a complete coven to invoke Ashura’s powers and sends them out to find a final witch. As she absorbs power the surviving girls plot to take her down but the possessed witch unleashes hell on campus with only one young witch left to stop her.”

I’ve seen some bad movies, but this one isn’t even a fun background time killer. Uncork’d is like the horror movie version of Asylum, cranking out low-budget knock-offs of popular titles, with varying results. While I’m a big fan of the Leonard Maltin aphorism that no one ever sets out to make a bad movie, sometimes you just have to wonder exactly what those involved were thinking.

Coven is basically a total shitshow from the opening scene, wherein the coven’s leader, Ronnie (Jennifer Cipolla) goes crazy and stabs the hell out of the witch she thinks isn’t committed enough. Fake blood comes spurting out of the knife before it’s touched skin several times, and in one notable shot, actually squirts from the blade’s tip while being held aloft.

It just goes downhill from there. The acting is wooden, with the exception of Cipolla’s Ronnie, although her performance is lifted 100% from Fairuza Balk, in order to make this a “sexy” college version of The Craft. Is it necessary to wear nothing but underwear and lingerie in order to do witchcraft? This movie definitely seems to think so. There seems to be some importance attached to the sheer robes which all of the witches wear, but it’s never explained, other than Sophie looking very happy and proud as one is slipped over her shoulders after she’s branded with the coven’s pentagram mark.

Every single scene is loaded with plot points which have the opposite impact of their intent. The scene where Sophie meets the romantic interest, James (Adam Horner) clearly delineates that he’s the TA for one of her professors, and the professor seems totally cool with the idea that Sophie and James might hook up, which is literally a thing that is banned by nearly every single university in the country.

Ronnie and Jax (Miranda O’Hare), another member of the coven, are making out at a bar, and some redneck dude makes a bunch of homophobic comments, which is just a set-up so that they can come back later and reap vengeance, but thanks to the movie’s budget, his impending immolation is ratcheted down to getting his genitals attacked before the police scare off the coven and they all have to run for it.

There are scads of desaturated flashbacks to the first coven which summoned Ashura, and it’s made apparent through both flashbacks and expository dialogue that all five members of the modern-day coven are direct descendants of that original coven almost exactly 200 years prior. The 1800s coven, of course, looks more like ’60s flower children than anything like The Witch, but again – budget. The flashbacks do end up being better than the film itself, however, because there’s no dialogue. In Coven, the lines aren’t so much spoken as loudly declaimed.

This is a movie which could’ve been fun. “Lingerie-clad collegiate witches summoning a powerful creature, then wreaking havoc upon the uptight small town in which they live” has a lot of potential, in terms of trashy fun, but Coven fails because it takes all of the tropes of the witch movie and only looks at the surface for its inspiration. Ronnie’s mean and power-hungry, but there’s no explanation as to why. The other witches are with her, but again – why? Are they all in college? What brought them together? How did they even become witches in the first place? The only answer seems to be a big shrug and another scene of butts in underpants.

Nick is a self-described “rock star journalist,” which is strange, considering he’s married with two kids and three cats. This is just further proof that you can’t trust anyone online. In addition to his work for Scene-Stealers, Nick can be found bitching about music elsewhere on the Internet at his blog, Rock Star Journalist, and as Music Editor for The Pitch.

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