"Whose hand haven't I shaken?" asked Director Renny Harlin (Exorcist: The Beginning) as the press descended on the set of his newest film The Covenant. MovieWeb had the pleasure of being flown out to Montreal, Quebec to observe the going's on of Harlin's newest cinematic offering. In a warehouse doubling as a movie set, the first thing I noticed right away was the life-size barn set that greeted me the moment I stepped inside. Filled with old carriages, various "barn equipment" and styrofoam/break away walls, it will be interesting to see how this set looks when Harlin and Co. get done with it.
After this Harlin greeted the rest of the press and broke down the following spectacle behind us. Aside from there being an enormous blue screen, there was also a very tall rocklike formation. He explains that the main characters of the movie see a party going on below "and they decide to join it." He further explains that he isn't using stunt doubles for these particular scenes, and that the actors are rigged by the same wiring system used in Cirque Du Solei. In this shot, three of the main actors are already at the party and their leader, Caleb (Steven Strait), swoops down to join them. Each time Strait comes in, he walks to the front of the group and instead of yelling cut when the scene is done Harlin offers a "Yeah baby" or "Yeah, superheroes... cool," from his "voice of God" sound system behind the monitors.
Set in present day New England, the film follows Caleb (Strait), Reid (Toby Hemingway), Pogue (Taylor Kitsch) and Tyler (Chace Crawford). These are four friends who share supernatural powers like shapeshifting and various "feats of strength" that nobody else knows they have. However, every time one of them uses their power it effects the lifespan of all of them. Soon, Chase Collins (Sebastian Stan) joins the group and it isn't long before he and Caleb are locking horns over Sarah Wenham (Laura Ramsey). With Caleb about to achieve his "full power" on his 18th birthday, he comes to realize that he is going to have to sacrifice everything to save what he loves.
"We see 240 degrees," states Director or Photography Pierre Gill. "We're using a wide lense so we'll see everything very wide."
"It's the opening scene of the movie," continues Harlin. "The sky will be stormy there will be a 200 foot drop!"
When asked about the challenges of filmmaking Harlin seems to dismiss that idea entirely. "It's fun. I've done it for so many years... I can imagine anything. If we have the money I can do it. I have to pinch myself sometimes. Not only do people let me do this, they pay me to do this." He also spoke about doing different kinds of films. "I wouldn't mind at all doing a comedy. Yesterday we did a scene in the mansion which was all about the actors."
On this note he discussed the kind people he was looking for to play the 5 main male characters in the movie. "I was look for 5 guys who would be believable as people who come from settlers of a wealthy, blue blood community. I didn't want somebody famous because that would ruin the surprise. It's important that they are different types."
"It's by far the most beautiful looking movie I've ever made." Harlin declared. "There's no color in it. The film style is very deliberate. We make the audience take a certain point of view. I think the results are very beautiful and not style for style's sake." Gill echoed Harlin's thoughts about the look of The Covenant. "I think we're making something that's very elegant. The room's we shoot in become part of the action. The filmic style is very important and it's also important to have different, interesting angles. It's scary but it's not like a horror movie."
"Nowadays movies are very fast. We feel that ours is the opposite. It's more deliberate. There's still a lot of angles but not really a bunch of coverage." Harlin says. The Covenant will also be PG-13 and according to the director there's "no blood" and it's "not about scaring people. It's really funny because you don't have to deal with blood in it." In continuing to dissect the film Harlin thinks the hardest part is keeping up with moviegoer's fickle tastes. "Today's audience is so much more sophisticated. A movie that once had 350 cuts might have 3,000 today! You have to do so much more because they have seen everything."
The fact that The Covenant focuses on young kids and also happens to take place at a school, will no doubt draw comparisons to another popular adolescent with special powers who happens to attend a prep school. "I look at this as Harry Potter grown up." Harlin states. "It's for those people that maybe think that that is kid's stuff."
Lastly, the director discussed his reasons for wanting to bring The Covenant to the big screen. "It dealt with young people. Young people on the verge of adulthood. We could take the New England wealthy world and make it our own." He then discussed some of the influences on the film. "Kubrick movies... their style of framing and conversations. I don't want this film to ever feel like a typical teen movie." Harlin even brought up one of the most seminal movies of this genre. "The Lost Boys was almost 20 years ago but it was a hip, cool movie. Instead of vampires we have warlocks. Our movie is more serious than that. It doesn't really have the same comedic moments."
With horror films proving themselves to be the one certainty in an often uncertain business, The Covenant, with it's fresh take on older material should be a very entertaining and suspenseful viewing experience. In fact, just watching the scene of Steven Strait's character coming down to join his friends, one can already see the strong visual ideas at work in the film. When you consider that this was observed in it's rawest form (with wires carrying the actors, a rock formation doubling for an even larger cliff and a massive blue screen all around it), one can only imagine how it will look when all the special FX are finally added to the film.