Screenwriter J.S. Cardone dipped into local history and lore for the plot of the recently released teen horror flick "The Covenant." The superheroes at the center of the story are direct descendents of four fictional Ipswich families who formed a covenant of silence to protect their magical powers during the witch hysteria that swept the region in 1692.
According to the plot, there were originally five families in the covenant, but one of them irked the others and was banished, its bloodline seemingly extinguished forever, or at least until now. The film's dramatic tension is supplied by the mysterious lone survivor, who is itching for revenge.
Not only have the witchy teen hunks inherited their long-kept family secrets, they've also been endowed with their ancestors' ethereal powers, including superhuman feats of strength and the ability to cause objects to be hurtled through the air. But these are the gifts that don't keep on giving - every time one of the magical powers is called upon, its user ages prematurely.
The movie was filmed entirely in Quebec but set in a tony Massachusetts prep school. That's probably why Cardone made an attempt to tap local history, though his effort is more humorous than historical.
The movie refers to the ancient families as original founders of the "Ipswich Colony," whatever that is. Like the rest of the North Shore, Ipswich was part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. And because Ipswich was settled in 1633, those old warlocks would have been in their 80s or 90s in 1692, an age they'd be unlikely to attain given the downside of their powers.
It's often said there's no such thing as bad publicity. But Ipswich Visitor Center Director Bill Nelson said even good movies aren't likely to draw curious visitors.
"I don't think it does anything good or anything bad" for tourism, said Nelson, who hasn't seen the film. While a few visitors mention knowing the movie "The Crucible" was shot in Ipswich, it's not all that many, he said.
Cardone appears to have a better grasp of local geography than history. The lead male character is named Caleb Danvers, although there was no Danvers in 1692. Caleb's love interest, Sarah Wenham, also has an unlikely surname, though her first name has an interesting historical tie. Sara Good, who was raised in Wenham, was hanged for being a witch in 1692.
"There's nothing like a good, historical movie," Marilynne Roach said with a chuckle. Roach spent 27 years researching and writing "The Salem Witch Trials: A Day by Day Account of a Community Under Siege."
About the only thing Cardone got right is the date. Roach noted that Elizabeth Howe, who lived in the Outer Linebrook section of Ipswich, was hanged as a witch in 1692. Rachael Clenton, Sarah Buckley and Elizabeth Proctor were also tried, but pardoned.
Moviegoers will be pardoned if they skip this one.