The Pact DIRECTOR: Nicholas McCarthy
WRITER: Nicholas McCarthy
STARRING: Caity Lotz, Casper Van Dien, Haley Hudson, Agnes Bruckner
RELEASE DATE: July 6, 2012 (limited); On VOD now
Ghost stories, tales of the things that go bump in the night, and supernatural thrillers in general will always be popular. They won’t always be good, but they will always attract eager eyes seeking a thrill.
The trick is doing things right, above all other things, but it’s also important to offer your own fresh and unique style. People love to be scared, and a big part of that is properly using your viewers’ own brains against them. Brutal violence can be horrifying, but it’s the unseen, the worst fears you instantly imagine in your own minds, that can be the most effective.
Having always been a huge fan of such movies, I was excited to check out The Pact, an indie supernatural thrill from director Nicholas McCarthy.
The movie opens with a woman named Nicole (Agnes Bruckner) calling her sister Annie (Caity Lotz) to see if she’s coming home for their mother’s funeral, but something is clearly not right. Annie doesn’t want anything to do with their deceased mother or the house she lived in, which is met by a guilt trip from Nicole. Moments after the phone call and a quick video chat with her daughter (who’s being watched by their cousin), strange happenings in the house lure Nicole into a dark doorway, which she disappears into.
Things then shifts to Annie, who decides to come home after all. When she arrives, she arrives to no sign of her sister. She thinks Nicole, who has struggled with drugs in the past, has just fallen back into the arms of some of her demons. But when strange things again happen in the house and her cousin, who was back for the funeral with Nicole’s daughter, also disappears, Annie starts enters into panic mode. Enlisting the help of a cop (Casper Van Dien) and the abilities of a medium (Haley Hudson), Annie tries to figure out what happened to her sister and cousin, while also uncovering the deep and dark mysteries her mother’s house holds.
As mentioned above, people love themselves supernatural thrillers such as this, but because we’ve seen so many of them it’s necessary to find an original way to present new ones in order to keep viewers interested. This is The Pact‘s fatal flaw. The film is littered with stale, un-scary haunted house tricks. It gets right into the generic sights and sounds of the genre—a bump and thump here; something mysteriously falling there—with little to no suspense to support them. On a couple of rare occasions there’s something spooky to enjoy, by that point your brain has already cashed out to what’s going on.
Director McCarthy makes his feature length debut on the movie, adapting his own short film of the same name. The short starred Firefly and Serenity star Jewel Staite, though she’s sadly not part of the feature. Relative newcomer Lotz does a decent job leading the way, but the familiarity of Staite probably would have helped the film’s appeal slightly.
The Pact also suffers from a massive case of self-identity confusion. It starts as said generic haunted house movie, but half way through it tries to distinguish itself with a murder mystery twist that unfortunately fails to work. The movie feels like it was made up as it was being filmed, like a Mad Libs ghost story of sorts. By the end you have the ghost story on one side and the murder mystery on the other, each having leaked into the other and neither being explained all that well. The final product being a messy and ultimately unsatisfying bit of storytelling that will leave you thinking, but not in the good way.
Ghost junkies may be able to salvage some entertainment out of The Pact, but, in the end, the vast majoritys will in all likelihood wish the movie had more to offer.