1 out of 10

Release Date: 16th February 2015 (DVD Premiere)

Director: John Mackie

Cast: Dexter Fletcher, Magda Rodriguez, Rachel Summers, Fiona Maeve O’Brien, Holly Mackie, Cloe Mackie, Madeleine Rose Witney, Maya Charlerly, Billy Red Mackie, Kazim Benson, Jodie Benson, Howard Lee with Tony O’ Callaghan and Mark Cooper Harris

Writer: Jayney Mackie

Trailer: THE COVEN

MV5BMTYxMDc2ODYxNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTI1NjkxMDE@._V1_SY317_CR6,0,214,317_AL_TO BE PROOFREAD: Unscary and as flat as Norfolk, I doubt many of the cast have even so much as walked past a drama school. So wooden are the performances by most of the young leads that viewers may get them confused with the trees in haunted woods where most of The Coven is set.  Set in a real life ‘haunted’ spot in Highgate, London the only thing scary about this flick is how seasoned actor and up and coming film director Dexter Fletcher (LAYER CAKE) got involved. He must really need money to make his next film about Eddie The Eagle or the filmmakers caught him doing something in the woods on camera and blackmailed him!

Strangely enough the bad and indifferent performances by the largely female cast borderline on realistic. Now, this may sound like a contradiction but bear with me, when I was training to be a school teacher I was met with the same type of slow witted, heavy eye-lid lead, dopeyness on a day to day basis and I can confirm that this is how teenagers of today act, except these girls couldn’t act and were betraying their real life personalities. You can imagine how unenthusiastic they were to be stuck in some cold and spooky woods in the middle of autumn with only some creepy filmmakers for company.  The only other film with a comparably bored cast was The Dead Inside – a recent zombie horror set outside Milton Keynes!

The plot is nonsensical, every single adult seems to be an encyclopedia on devil worship. One character even has a professor on her couch to tell her about the ins and outs of occultism and how spooky her neighbourhood is. Dexter Fletcher plays a teacher who gets sent out of his lesson by a sexy ghost teacher who may be an embodiment of Lucifer. A mysterious motorbiker called Uri Clef stalks our girls and turns them into a holly bush whilst chalk letters move around on a black board in their classroom. Tony O’ Callaghan from The Bill turns up to deliver more exposition when Dexter Fletcher’s sidelined teacher starts talking about asking the sexy ghost out only to be put off topic by her foreign surname. That’s another thing, this film is racist. All the black characters are dim and treated thus. A racist librarian (MARK COOPER HARRIS – ABDUCTED) won’t even give her a photocopy of a book and even closes the library early so that she can’t stay and read it. Her white friends tell her that she’s not one of them and that’s just for starts. She’s so thick she runs to the woods to help her imperilled friends in her pyjamas, at Hallowe’en! There’s more but Joe Pesci II is likely to happen upon this strain of racism that runs deep throughout The Coven albeit intentional.

Halfway through two lads are added to the menu but to little effect except to wonder quite how many of our youth are speaking in this crazy ‘made-up’ accent that blends East End Cockney, Nottingham and Jamaican, and how daft it sounds. The boys are just as crap at acting, further banjaxxed by a terrible script and plot. Weirdly enough it’s not the worst horror film that’s turned up this year and that is very,very dim praise indeed.

The ending of the film contains a caveat that this is all based on fact and that real witches tried to stop them from making the film. I wish they succeeded but this film was hexed the minute the writer figured out how to unscrew the lid from her biro.

1 out of 10 – Pure special bus.

Second review below by the sinister fiend Matt ‘He knows for sure Witches don’t wear underwear’ Usher aka Joe Pesci II



One thought on “THE COVEN

  1. THE COVEN by Matt ‘Witch Groper General’ Usher aka Joe Pesci II

    John Mackie must have been a brilliant construction manager on WILD BILL. How else to explain the appearance of the latter’s director (Dexter Fletcher) in Mr Mackie’s directorial debut THE COVEN?

    Fletcher plays a wild-haired teacher who’s telling his class about paganism and witches. But then a supply teacher called Mrs Belial who has weird eyes and an allergy to acting appears and tells him to report to the headmaster. She’s even more well-informed about the local paedophile/pagan rituals than Fletcher is, telling the kids all about Uri Clef a motorcycling pagan who killed seven children in the nearby woods a few years earlier. Meanwhile Fletcher reports to the headmaster, except the door’s locked! And that’s the end of that story strand.

    In a completely unrelated storyline some of the girls decide to spend the night in the very same woods! (Best line, ‘maybe we’ll see a pagan gathering or something’.) But they don’t like a girl called Eve (who is black) as ‘she’s not one of us’. She goes off to the library where she encounters a librarian (played poorly by Mark Harris) who is racist, pompous, or a pagan paedophile. We never find out which, but he doesn’t want her investigating any local history. Or witchcraft-related stuff. Having been treated as a ne’er-do-well she behaves like one, and vandalises and steals the reading matter she seeks. She goes home to look on a website called Highgate and her Envoirons (sic). Then some bloke turns up from out of nowhere, sits on the couch, and tells her all about plague pits and devil worship. He’s credited as Eve’s Tutor. Where did he come from? Is he the internet in human form? Or does she keep her own personal professor in a cupboard?

    Meanwhile the main members of the cast (i.e. the white girls plus another token black girl who hardly speaks and will be the first to die) have frolicked with a video recorder on a bus and arrived in the woods. A motorcyclist appears from nowhere and almost runs one of our heroines down! Fortunately it’s all on video. Except it later turns out that it isn’t. This is meant to be spooky. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the possibility that it’s just the result of poor filming is overlooked.

    The girls do girl things like talk about owls and being brownies. Much is made of text message based parental deception, another story strand which the scriptwriter (Jayney Mackie) forgets about. They wander in the woods for hours then put a tent up. Worryingly, they have the same Tent of Doom that was seen in NAZI VENGEANCE. They then get mildly tipsy, play scrabble or something and go to sleep. Kids today!

    Having run out of things to do with the girls the film introduces a couple of boys who have been to a Halloween party. (There’s a good fake shock moment 42 minutes in which perks the film up for a few seconds.) Anyway, they decide to take a shortcut through the woods. One of them steps on a twig, and the girls in the tent hear this. Then one of the boys (inevitably the black one) falls off a tree and impales his head on something. Although not killed we never see him again. Meanwhile his white mate runs off to find help and is chased by a motorbike unheard by the girls in the tent – you know, the ones who were woken up by a broken twig.

    By this time some of the girls have gone to answer the call of nature. They are never seen again! They just get tapped on the shoulder, turn around and then we cut to somewhere else. Like Dexter Fletcher in the pub. He gets tapped on the shoulder by a The Bill regular, who just happens to know all about Belial being Lucifer’s little helper.

    Meanwhile Eve has received a text message saying ‘help us!’ presumably from one of the girls who hates her (or is it from Lucifer? Or Dexter Fletcher?). So off she runs in the middle of the night in pyjamas and dressing gown to save the day. She fails. Meanwhile Satan’s slave, the supply teacher Mrs Belial, is eating birds and growing a tree on her dinner table. Or something. The film ends with an acronym of doom, all the teenagers apparently dying and some cheap special effects which seem more like the opening credits for an Aussie soap than the sad litany of death which they’re meant to be. Meanwhile Dexter Fletcher is still down the pub.

    I saw this on Youtube, and the copy there has incredibly bad audio and video so I may have missed much that would have made this film even worse (or better). I won’t criticise the younger members of the cast because the film-makers shouldn’t have employed them in the first place. My colleague Brit Pic Dick sums them up as convincing as bored teenagers, and less than convincing as imperilled yet oblivious sacrificial victims. But the fault is down to the people who made the film. The director comes up with two good images (the comedy shock moment and a recurring shot of the motorbike’s headlight which is really good first time round). But the film lacks pace, atmosphere and any grounding in credibility. The director fails to imbue his actors with any feeling for their situation, and the writer gives them dialogue which veers between bad and stupid. And who is this actually for? It’s not scary, characterisation is all but non-existent, and the plot makes Trumpton look labyrinthine. Early on, Mrs Belial writes the name Uri Clef on the blackboard. Every now and again we pop back and see the letters magically rearrange themselves. It takes 45 minutes for Uri Clef to become (wait for it) Lucifer! Were we meant to be surprised at this reveal? Mackie can just about manage reasonable editing, and can almost conjure up a spooky atmosphere, but for the most part this feels like a school project.

    The film was made in Highgate, an olde worlde rather spooky bit of London, where
    it seems that there are indeed still witches and pagans. The film-makers even claim to have been cursed by them. I can only wish that were true and congratulate the witches for their shrewd judgement. It seems that the Mackies did do quite a lot of research (presumably a professor of local history lounged about on their couch) and then ignored it. The film ends with captions explaining that the film was based on real events. Why didn’t they put this at the start?

    Not only will this film annoy anyone interested in Paganism, Witchcraft or good films, but it also manages to be quite dumbly racist. The uncool Eve is spurned both by the racist cool kids and the racist nerdy pervert librarian. But on the other hand she is the only character who even attempts a heroic gesture, whereas the rest of the cast just vanish without even a whimper. I’m sure the subordination of black characters (they are variously despised, ignored or forgotten about) is accidental, but does that make it better or worse?

    THE COVEN has no place on this earth. This is substandard even by the low substandard of the British horror movie. Having done a great deal of research they then offload it in such a way as to make none of it interesting, then concoct a story of stunning banality. Bizarrely they then rip off / homage THE CRAFT for the DVD cover and then resort to making ridiculous claims about being hexed by real-life witches. If only the Mackie family had put as much imagination into the conception and execution of the film itself then they might have had something worth watching.

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