The Coven full movie review - The Coven is worth watching twice
Spoiler alert: this review deals with the plot and its interpretation from a Cochranian Wiccan perspective.
The Coven superficially appears similar to the Blair Witch Project, complete with shaky camera work and scary moments. In reality it is a completely different, and far deeper film, which deals with theological conflicts within modern Traditional Witchcraft.
The plot deals with events surrounding those faithful to the Wicca of Robert Cochrane who founded the Thames Valley Coven in 1962 and ran it until his death in 1966. It deals with Cochranian Wicca in the present day. The film opens with a map of Queen's Wood in Highgate. The scene then moves to a girls school. Mr Shears (Dexter Fletcher: Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) is giving a lesson about Wicca holding a red leather bound book. He gives an explanation asking 'Is Wicca a religion or little more than devil worship'. He then explains about Robert Cochrane who 'founded a Wicca coven as recently as the 1960s'. He is interrupted by a woman who comes into the class introducing herself as Mrs Belial, a supply teacher. She says that he needs to see the headmaster. He leaves and she takes over, explaining that there was a Wiccan leader Uri Clef who disappeared recently with seven followers. Mr Shears finds the headmaster away and returns to the classroom but Mrs Belial has disappeared. Five of the girls in the class decide to go into the woods at Halloween.
Meanwhile Mrs Belial is seen gardening where she cuts herself on a rose. She sucks the blood enjoying the taste, appearing to be the embodiment of evil. On a nearby bench is a blue book. The girls head to the Queen's Wood by bus.
The film then cuts to the lounge of one of the other girls in the class, Eve. She has found a nursery rhyme. Her tutor comes and sits next to her and explains that it is about the devil. He also has a blue book that he places next to him on the sofa. His face is not seen again. Meanwhile Mrs Belial is seen alone eating the raw meat of a stag. She has some soil and foliage on which paper figures are laid and is doing a harmful magic spell on the seven in the wood. The biker appears again and picks off those in the wood. Clef is seen as a skeleton, apparently long dead. Near the end a coven which is in the woods is seen dancing in the distance.
The plot is fairly involved and many of the key points are seen fleetingly. The beauty of the film is that the clues are hidden and the references to Cochranian Wicca are real. Understanding these allows the plot and the murderous biker's identity to be resolved. The first key to understanding the film is the relationship between the key characters. The plot deals with Cochranian Wicca which is one of the denominations of Wicca. Cochranianism itself has its own divisions. Cochranians are predominantly gnostic, however they split between those who give primacy to Lileth-Lucifer and those for whom Sophia or Wisdom is the primary deity. Those who follow Sophia do not revere Lucifer, instead pairing her with a horse-stag of local tradition sometimes called Morvarch or with a name linked to local deities. In this film the murderous faction, headed by Mrs Belial, are the Luciferians and Uri Clef's followers revere Sophia-Morvarch. To the Morvarchians the horse-stag is the god of the Old Ways.
The Luciferians are portrayed as the killers in the film. In Cochranianism red and blue are used to mean life and death respectively. As Cochrane wrote "Her vesture half of blue, half of red. Life and death are in her two hands". Mr Shears is promoting Cochranian Wicca as the main tradition and appears to be a Morvarchian Cochranian sympathetic to Clef. He has a red book, signifying life. Meanwhile Mrs Belial and Eve's tutor have blue books that signify death. The fact that they have similar books ties them to being part of the same coven and opposed to Clef. Later Mrs Belial is seen eating raw venison, literally eating the god of the Morvarchian Cochranians. They appear as Luciferian Cochranians. The murderous biker is working with Mrs Belial. Eve's tutor has a blue book and the fact that he is in the vicinity of the woods implies that he is the biker, whose face is never seen.
The question remains 'why was it necessary for Clef to be killed by the Luciferians ?' Clef was said to be building a Wiccan army which would damage the fabric of society. This would be a threat to Luciferians who would see the primacy of Morvarchian Cochranianism as undesirable. By killing him they could ensure that Lucifer remains the primary object of worship. This film is, of course, loved by Morvarchian Cochranians who see themselves portrayed as the good folk.
In 500BC Aeschylus produced a play and took part in its first performance. As he spoke his lines there was an outcry from the audience with the declaration "he reveals the holy mysteries". He showed that he had never been initiated and could not therefore reveal them. The makers of the film will doubtless state that they too have not been initiated and cannot have revealed the mysteries of Cochranianism. None the less the sub rosa mysteries of Cochranian Wicca are revealed for those who look, but then as Cochrane stated "There is no secret in the world that cannot be discovered, if the recipient is ready to listen to it ? since the very air itself carries memory and knowledge". The film makers have produced a piece of extraordinary depth not seen before in presentation of modern Witchcraft. It is a film that will stand the test of time and become a classic example of its genre.