COVEN is a Stylish Witch Thriller That Lacks Depth

Heavily touted as being a cross between The Craft and Suspiria, Coven follows a group of University-going witches as they seek to complete their coven in order to invoke the powers of an ancient witch named Ashura.

Without a doubt, the highlight of Coven is the fact that it is visually striking from beginning to end. It is clear from the get-go that director Margaret Malandruccolo has talent. Working in tandem with cinematographer Eduardo Ramirez Gonzalez, the filmmakers have put together an impressive-looking witch thriller. Additionally, the special effects, wardrobe, and music complement the overall tone. All of it together makes for a stylish movie

As a long-time horror fan, I was genuinely taken by surprise by the opening sequence. Not knowing much about the plot before watching, my assumption about who would be the main character proved to be wrong, as she is killed off within the opening minutes. From there, the story switches gears to focus on a new protagonist, but the goal of the witch coven is just a rehash of what was accomplished (or not accomplished) in those first few moments. Most of what happens after that often feels like some sort of reboot, remake, or rip-off of The Craft.

A downfall of Coven is that the characters are mostly one-dimensional stereotypes. Each member of the cast, however, is a good fit. Jocelyn Saenz and Margot Major are particularly entertaining as Robin and Beth, respectively. I would have liked to have seen a lot more character development from the main protagonist and antagonist. Unfortunately, the screenplay never delves deep into the motives behind either one of their goals. Instead, viewers are expected to simply go along with the idea that one is bad, the other good.

One of the central promises of the movie’s synopsis is that one of the witches is evil. Unfortunately, this aspect of the story is not fully utilized until the third act. As is, the existing structure of the story could work if there had been more character development to lead up to the inevitable possession. Alternatively, the screenplay could have pushed a few major events forward, which would have allowed for more time for scenes similar to those presented near the finale.

What we’re left with is an okay college-set thriller. Coven never materializes into a strong character study or a silly exercise in witchy horror. All of that being said, while watching Coven I was entertained and never bored; I just wanted more. Putting comparisons to The Craft and Suspiria aside, my impression of Coven is a lot closer to 2006’s Covenant, as both movies are style over substance.

Bryce Gibson

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