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Formulaic 'Covenant' is more dopey than scary

And here you thought it took money, property, and breeding to make it into the Social Register. (A decent backswing helps, of course.) In ``The Covenant," a deadly dull new fantasy-horror drama, four young hunks are ``the Sons of Ipswich," descendants of the original Massachusetts settlers who, like their forebears, are in secret possession of supernatural powers. They can fly and levitate objects through the air; when they're really cooking, their eyeballs turn black.

None of this is ever noticed by their classmates at tony Spenser Academy. But what do you expect? They're day students.

Directed by Renny Harlin , who has fallen a long way from ``Die Hard 2, " ``The Covenant" is dopey, formulaic stuff for the Friday night fright crowd. Worse for them, it's never remotely scary. The hero, Caleb Danvers (Steven Strait , as generic as his name) stands to come into his full powers on his 18th birthday, but he knows the downside of their seductive use -- his father sits up in the family manse, looking like the picture of Dorian Gray minus the retouching.

His friends are itchier to get their warlock license, especially bad-boy Reid (Toby Hemingway ), who's jealous of Caleb's prowess with plucky Sarah (Laura Ramsey) and who may be the one responsible for a student's death during a party in the woods. Or maybe the guilty party is the new transfer, Chase Collins (Sebastian Stan ), who's a little too friendly to Caleb.

You'll figure it out in the first 20 minutes and then mentally draw up your grocery list while waiting for the movie to crawl to a halt 80 minutes later. The special effects are passable, the dialogue sequences endless and dreary, the music right out of ``Dark Shadows," and the wan attempt to tap into something, anything, authentic to the Massachusetts setting strictly laughable. (One of the characters ends up at the hospital in Gloucester, or, as Sarah pronounces it, ``Glau-ster.")

Ipswich might sue if the entire film hadn't been shot in Quebec.

Besides, anyone with half a brain knows that rich preps don't get their power from witchcraft. They get it from Daddy. But anyone with half a brain is not this movie's target audience.

Ty Burr can be reached at

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