Coven of Evil 2020 is a British horror film that has a strange allure, but ultimately fails to live up to its promise, says KATE INGLEBY-PARYLO
TITLE: Coven of Evil
DIRECTOR: Matthew J. Lawrence
CAST: John Thacker, Laura Peterson, Samantha Moorhouse
Review of Coven of Evil 2020
After writing a slanderous article on witches, Joe, a freelance journalist, was invited to observe a local coven. Once arriving, he quickly realised there is something more ominous going on than just witchcraft. After meeting one of the sisters of the coven, Alice, Joe makes it his mission to rescue her. But does she really need saving?
Written, directed and produced by Matthew J. Lawrence, Coven of Evil is a low-budget British horror film made in 2018 but not released until 2020. On IMDb, the film markets itself as a drama, romance, horror film, but with the inclusion of so many genres, it’s a shame that the film fails to thrive in any. The expectation of evil witch horror is quickly replaced with overdone boy-girl drama and an uninspired romance plot. From the first ritual scene, it becomes apparent that this coven is more perverted than wicked.
The film wants to be a touching story about a regular guy saving a woman from potential evil, but what we get is a clunky and overly long story which fails to evoke any emotion due to its bizarre nature. Coven of Evil 2020 isn’t weird in the sense that it’s unconventional. It’s weird because it seems to be trying to convey two completely different tones at once.
For example, the coven’s high priestess, Evie, is played by Samantha Moorhouse, who delivers a very campy and sometimes overly dramatic performance. When interacting with Joe, played by John Thacker, their interactions really work to create a campy, semi-serious tone.
Unfortunately, this is often ruined by other performances that don’t seem to be in on the joke that the film might not be as serious as it wants to be. There seems to be a stark contrast between the actors who knew the type of film they were shooting and those who didn’t. For instance, Laura Peterson, who plays Alice, and Laura Wilson, who plays Talia, seem to have missed the memo.
This creates a very jarring experience as the film will go from being pretty funny (intentionally or unintentionally) to quickly being stalled by acting that just simply isn’t good. In one scene when Joe is talking to Alice about running away, Joe responds with “Jesus, you’re really scared of him, aren’t you?”. The problem is Alice doesn’t seem scared or emotional at all. She seems bored.
While it could be argued that this is a clever nod that Alice’s motivations might be more sinister than first realised, this unfortunately doesn’t come to fruition. Maybe it was a moment to create tension? Or maybe it was just bad acting? It leaves you frequently questioning whether this is a clever horror film that is always one step ahead or whether you’re watching a film created by a bunch of hungover university students. Having witnessed both myself, I’m still left pondering. This isn’t necessarily surprising since Matthew J. Lawrence has mostly made short low-budget horror films. It seems like he should have stuck to the same format for this one.
Even with a 100-minute runtime, the story development is still under-cooked. The problem can be traced to the beginning of the film with Joe. Why is he even at the coven? The film would have us believe that it’s because he felt bad about being accused of writing a slanderous article on witches. But we’re never told why? It’s not like his reputation is at stake. He’s never met Evie before, so why does he put so much weight on her opinion? It’s never questioned, and this quickly becomes a running theme with Joe.
He has the personality of a doorknob. He constantly just stands there as other characters grab and twist him. For all the talk he does about rescuing Alice, he fails to really act on it unless it’s to sleep with her.
It’s also left a little unclear on what the coven actually is. From a throwaway line, we learn they are Satanists posing as Wiccans, but there isn’t much depth to this. Why are they posing as Wiccans? Why even invite Joe? There is a reveal near the end of the film that might answer this question, but honestly, I don’t think it’s enough to justify the story we’ve just had to sit 100 minutes through. The throwaway line could easily have been missed, as even Matthew J. Lawrence himself had to state on an IMDb review that the coven are not Wiccans.
While there are a lot of missteps in this film, there is something here. The first scene when we see a flashback is legitimately funny. A group of cultists is murdering a woman in the British countryside. The issue is that the British countryside can be windy, especially on high ground. So as the cultists are trying to be scary, the character’s hair is constantly blowing into their faces, making it increasingly difficult to deliver lines.
Furthermore, most of the characters have hoods which look like they could blow off at any time. The scene is funny because of how comical and camp it is. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t stick to this consistency all the way through. Instead of being entertaining with off-beat musical tones and quirky characters, it’s just bad acting and non-existent lighting.
Coven of Evil is not good. The sound design is terrible, the acting varies, the cinematography is uninspired, and story development is as non-existent as the lighting. Despite this, however, I couldn’t turn it off. Even with the choice of reviewing a different film, I still continued watching. The film has an almost hypnotic quality. While I wouldn’t recommend it, the film is currently available on Amazon Prime to rent or buy for a fee, along with a wealth of other British horror films of a similar quality.
Watch Coven of Evil 2020 trailer
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