Director Margaret Malandruccolo’s femme fatale witch flick, Coven (2020), is a hard-rocked backed movie that centers around witchcraft, loss, and lots of sexy rituals. The movie is due to be released July 14th via digital and DVD through Uncork’d Entertainment, the distributors who have brought recent thrillers like The Dwelling, Dolls, and Getaway. Witch themed movies seem to be getting the quick release treatment lately, which may be in anticipation of the sequel to The Craft (1996) being in the works; Coven felt like it was going for that edgy tone that The Craft cultivated but instead the film only reached a made-for-TV quality thanks to a generic script and direction style.
Coven follows Sophie (Lizze Gordon), a loner, undergrad student who inherited the power to perform witchcraft from her deceased mother, who she continually tries to make contact with. Also on campus is a group of four witches in search of a fifth member who will be needed in order to perform a ritual to invoke Ashura, an ancient entity who can give powers through ritual sacrifice. When they meet Sophie they know their circle is complete, but after performing the ritual, the leader of the coven, Ronnie (Jennifer Cipolla), becomes mad with power and goes on a rampage against the weaker witches. With help from her mother on the other side, Sophie sets out to take down Ronnie before she kills them all.
It is hard not to compare Coven to The Craft — not only is Coven similarly geared towards a YA audience but it also is a tale of a coven in search of a lone witch to complete their membership quota in order to summon an entity who will bestow upon them great powers. The structure is similar, but it is missing the distinct character storylines that showed the personal tragedies motivating those characters in The Craft to seek out more power. Though the film relies pretty heavily on the hottie aspect of its casting, I do commend Coven for using quite a lot of invocations and folklore in its script. This attention to spells gave some legitimacy to the premise of the story which was otherwise devoid of little character development or substance.
The film starts out like it will have a sort of melodramatic element with Sophie’s desire to contact her deceased mother, but this plot element is only used for slow-motion dream sequences that are an attempt at having some sort of artistic cinematography. If darker lighting was used in the cinematography it might have helped tone down the made-for-TV look. There is also a romantic subplot to the film that is unnecessary to the storyline, made obvious by the romantic interest just popping up randomly — this plot element seems shoehorned in, and I would have loved if the movie was brave enough to forego the obligatory love interest altogether. Nixing the unhelpful prince would also give a firm statement on womanhood.
The scenes with nudity (or near-nudity) seemed shoehorned in as well. Instead of feeling like an expression of feminine freedom, like at the end of The VVitch (2015) or Suspiria for example. The CGI that was used to display any magical happenings tiptoed the line of looking cheap, but in the end, I believe it helped relieve the audience of having to use their imagination further when it is already overworked trying to believe that these frequently underwear-clad witches were not simply living out some sort of telekinesis fantasy — their powers were used for such trivial things as opening a door that was right in front of them or magically having their makeup done in a snap.
I consider myself to be a witchy sort of gal, so I really wanted to love Coven, but from the beginning, I could detect a bit of the basic bitch witch vibe, like an occult version of The OC tv show. I did enjoy the film’s musical score, which was mainly metal – particularly during the credits, featuring ShowMeGod’s track “From the Dawn”. If you are a fan of the rebooted Charmed tv series or grew up watching the Sabrina the Teenage Witch from the 1990s you may be able to find some bright spots in this film, but if you are looking for something on the darker side or something more true to Wicca then you may want to spend your 81 minutes of life elsewhere.
MOVIE RATING — 5.5 out of 10 ☠️