“Jerry tries to stab Linda but she’s wearing a cross necklace, which would mean something if he was a vampire and not a witch.”
If I should ever end up on death row through some hilarious mix-up, my last request will be to once again watch “Bay Coven.” Why? Well, first, the movie is so interminable it makes time slow down; my final moments on Earth will feel like an eternity. And second, it’s so wretched that I will be begging for death when the screening is over.
Ok, maybe it’s not quite that bad. But this slow, painful, unending death march of a picture certainly is bad, even by the admittedly low standards of made for TV extravaganzas. As we all know, these movies aren’t intended to be good, they’re aimed at killing as much time as possible while spending as little money as possible. But “Bay Coven” manages to scrape the bottom of that barrel. And it’s no great shakes compared to other evil/occult movies, either; it makes 70’s Satan-schlockfests like “Touch of Satan” and “The Devil’s Rain” look like Hitchcock thrillers by comparison. You’d sell your soul to get out of watching the movie, except that watching it would deaden you so much you probably wouldn’t have a soul left to sell.
Sometimes you want to go, where everybody is a witch…
I’m going to try not to use the word “plot” here, as the word suggests that things happen in the movie, and I certainly don’t want to give you that impression. Poofy-haired lawyer Linda Lebon (Pamela Sue “Nancy Drew” Martin) and her whiny husband Simon – er, Jerry (Tim “Eric in ‘Animal House'” Matheson) are hanging out at a terrible jazz club with their friend/third wheel Slater (Woody “Legalize It” Harrelson). While fleeing from the terrible music, they run into another young couple, Josh and Debbie, who strike up a conversation about their awesome house on remote, exclusive Devlin Island.
The new “Fall for anything” line, from JC Penney
This conversation sets up the rest of the movie, even though it’s implausible to a Sy-Fy Original Picture degree. Linda and Jerry live and work in the city, so an island home would mean long commutes on ferryboats. The only house for sale is out of their price range, and it’s only available if they agree to let Beatrice, the batty old lady who currently lives there, stay on in the guest cottage. (Beatrice, by the way, is played by Barbara “June Cleaver” Billingsley.) While touring the place, Linda notices the only thing left in the house is a book with pentagrams on it. And the old dude in house down the street shakes his head NO when he sees them considering the house. Which naturally means that they take it. All on the word of two complete strangers.
Who’s dumber, the person who writes a movie this bad, or the person who realizes the movie is terrible but keeps watching? (Don’t answer that.)
So the Stupidest People Ever move in and start unpacking and realize they’ve been played for suckers by Josh and Debbie. The island community is full of weirdos; in addition to Beatrice, who now invites herself into their house at all hours, there’s Nick and Maddy, an older pair who flip out when they see Linda’s little white dog Rufus; there’s an inexplicably Cockney shopkeep who yells at Linda every time she comes in his store. And there are two odd children who walk around with voodoo dolls and stare at Linda, very M. Night Shamalyan style. And the locals all wear black at night and they all have black cats. And there’s low chanting at night… Jerry learns in a history book that Bay Cove, their village on the island, was once Bay Coven, a haven for witches, and that some guy was burned at the stake there. So we go through the very traditional and very predictable process of figuring out that the town has lots of hidden secrets.
I know this island has a history of witches and all, but couldn’t this just be a recreation of Rush’s “2112” album cover?
This process, by the way, is so tedious and repetitive that I started to think I was watching a film version of “The Song That Never Ends.” The cycle works like this:
1) Linda notices something “strange” on the island (she uses that word about 760 times in the movie). Something that very obviously suggests a coven of witches.
2) Something creepy happens in response to Linda’s discovery. Sometimes this is sad, like when Rufus the dog is “run over” by the odd neighbor, Nick. Sometimes this is comical, like when Woody Harrelson’s character drives a Jeep over a cliff in reverse and plummets to his death and EXPLODES.
3) Linda tells husband Jerry about the strangeness. Jerry ignores her, or worse, he yells at her for not being more grateful to her excessively sketchy neighbors.
Woody Harrelson and his flying Jeep should do a movie called “Chitty Chitty Bong Bong.”
This happens about 500 times in a row, and each time you say to yourself this is when Linda will figure out that the witch coven is alive and that the 300 year old occultists are after her and Jerry, but all she ever does is wander around the island in search of more clues. What’s worse, the only break from this unbearably long sequence is when Linda’s boss at the law firm assigns her to work on instituting zoning codes on the island. Just when this movie wasn’t dull enough, we take a detour into Massachusetts zoning law?
Ways to tell if you’re not that tough: you face off against June Cleaver… and lose
Linda (finally) makes sense of all the strangeness after talking to an old guy in the neighbor’s attic. The islanders are centuries-old witches who sold their souls to the devil in exchange for immortality. (Doesn’t the devil lose out in this deal, given that they never die?) Beatrice’s husband broke the pact by repenting his sins, and they want Jerry to take his place in the coven. See, I said in three sentences what it took this movie like 40 scenes to explain. The coven knows Linda’s next move is to, well, probably wander around looking for more clues, but on the off chance she might actually try to stop them, they drug her and say “the coven is complete.” So why can’t the movie be complete now too?
On the other hand, it is refreshing to see witches doing the burning for a change!
Because we have to suffer through an odd sequence where Linda, unsure if she’s dreaming this all up or not, sneaks out of the house without pants and bumps into Jerry, who is possessed by the spirit of the guy who started the coven all those years ago. He tries to stab Linda but she’s wearing a cross necklace, which would mean something if he was a vampire and not a witch. Anyway, he ends up stabbing himself and the real, dying Jerry warns Linda to go to the church, because “they won’t go in… powerless inside.” The coven people put on Jedi Knight robes and follow them to the church, carrying tiki torches as they bust inside. Five minutes ago they wouldn’t go in because they’re “powerless inside”… great advice there, Jerry. Actually it’s a trap – Linda locks them inside and then rings the church bells, and WOW a bolt of lightning makes the church explode AND collapse!
Then she rows back to the mainland. Left unsaid is how the destruction of the coven will affect her zoning law project.
I think most people expect made for TV movies to be a little lightweight, so that you can half-watch them while you’re doing other things. I’m convinced Bay Coven was written while the writers were doing other things. Sadly, the pain from this movie has caused me to lose all interest in doing other things, save for maybe starting a coven to banish bad made for TV extravaganzas about covens. Not recommended in the slightest.