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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Coven (review)

I felt like such an insider, watching Coven, seeing as how I was right there, behind the scenes, for its production via the documentary American Movie. There’s Uncle Bill, executive producer! There’s Mark Borchardt’s best bud, Mike Schank, stoner extraordinaire! Despite what the heartbreaking, Ed Wood poignancy of Movie might lead you to believe, Coven is a pretty damn good little film. Writer/director Borchardt stars as Mike, a booze- and pills-addicted writer shanghaied into a self-help group by friends… and that’s where his problems really start. Paranoia and hallucination harry Mike as the support group turns weird, as sob stories of the stresses of family, job, and life morph into something out of an upper circle of hell. The sound’s a bit off in places, and the black-and-white stock is alternately over- and underexposed, but Coven is often visually striking, capturing the eerieness of a stark Midwestern midwinter. Borchardt may have a real grasp on what makes for a good-looking film, but his skills as a writer aren’t quite up to snuff: this tale of psychological horror, of a descent into madness driven by self-help, isn’t as sharply pointed or as bleakly funny as it could be. Still, anyone willing to strike a blow against political correctness is cool in my book. You can buy a video of Coven at its official site. Do it. It’s cheap, and you’ll feel good about yourself for nurturing a truly independent film.

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MPAA: not rated

viewed at home on a small screen

official site | IMDb
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