Feeling obligated to return home for the funeral of the mother she despised, Annie senses an evil presence in her childhood home. As she seeks answers about her mother’s death, she finds herself forced to face demons from her past.
7 out of 10
I admired director Nicholas McCarthy’s strong effort “The Pact”. It is a tight, otherworldly who-dunnit that despite a strong and engaging first half does eventually peter out by the conclusion. It does have some very cool things to like in it though. It is just enough to redeem itself from a hokey subplot involving Casper Van Dien as a private dick who investigates the disappearances of two women connected to a house that is haunted by a restless spirit. Also a type of whodunnit that seems a bit out of place here.
Caity Lotz (as the by-the-numbers grieving lead) plays Annie who returns to her childhood home to pay her last respects to her recently deceased mother. It is an effective start to the film as McCarthy sets up the tone. A weighty bit of insight into how Annie and her sister were raised by a disturbed Mother. It isn’t anything groundbreaking and it surely tries to be just what it is. A unrefined moody bit of mediocrity. During the set up McCarthy displays some success in fleshing Annie and with the help of some cleverly placed camera angles and composition by DP Bridger Nielson (Splinter, 2006) the film maintains some semblance of mystery. There is one effective moment during a video chat between Nicole, Annie’s sister and Annie, where Nicole’s daughter sees an apparition that the video does not pick up. An unflashy piece of horror that is quite effective. It does turn into a gumshoe tale for a while as Annie’s Sister and her cousin Liz go missing and Van Dien investigates the goings on.
Van Dien is a quirky bit of casting here. He is scruffy, solemn and very by the book. His Det. Creek is even charmed by Annie as she tries to relate accurately the other-worldy things that have been going on. By this time the routine haunted house trappings emerge. Strange sounds, things move, food is found on the floor and strange shapes move around the home. Annie begins having vivid dreams about a man sitting on bed crying. As she delves deeper into her mother’s past, which involves an old photo found, a hidden room found on a blueprint, she starts to realize that there is something malevolent at work in her Mother’s house.
Keeping in with my spoiler free reviews I must admit that The Pact is a diamond in the rough as is Director McCarthy. His style and effort has yet to mature but he surely has the ability to keep us involved and even when it starts to get convoluted involving a medium, (who is an old friend of Annie’s), a spiritual presence that attacks Annie and even a serial killer named “Judas”, we still know there is more than meets the eye. We do at times scratch our heads in puzzlement and the somewhat bland delivery of the actors is very disappointing, “The Pact” does have some surprises in it that horror hounds would like to check out. It is a work in minimalism. It is a bare bones type of mystery that has Ti West (The Innkeepers) written all over it. I still would recommend it just on that alone. Enjoy, Gang.