Cinema Review - The Pact (2012)

After seeing the trailer, I couldn't wait to see The Pact. It seemed to have everything I like in a spine chiller; things that go bump, lots of screaming and a bloody good mystery. Extended from an original short by writer/director Nicholas McCarthy, The Pact had it's premier at this years Sundance Festival to somewhat mixed reviews. I haven't seen the short and I knew little about McCarthy but I had pretty high expectations from the trailer alone. 

The plot is a simple one.Annie returns to her childhood home to meet with her sister Nicole after her mother's death, only to find the house abandoned and Nicole missing. With a cast of relative unknowns, I had nothing to really compare to but Annie, played by Caity Lotz is a cynical loner who simply shrugs off Nicole's disappearance as inevitable. That is until her cousin also goes missing and all manner of weird stuff starts happening around her. 

The film then takes a  'who dunnit' turn as Annie aims to find out what the hell is going on. She doesn't do it alone though. She's helped by another cynic, this time a cop called Bill Creek played by Casper Van Dien (Starship Troopers) and Haley Hudson's spooky physic Stevie. It's worth mentioning here that Hudson's performance is by far the stand out. She looks bizarre, she sounds bizarre and her actions are well, bizarre.I don't want to be cruel but the other acting was bland. Hudson fits the freaky stereotype that her role depends however, her character has a mystery surrounding her and this coupled with the way she is played makes her the most interesting to watch.

McCarthy's feature length directorial debut starts off brilliantly. The overall mood is one of eerie suspense built up with a series of almost silent shots only interrupted by the sound of footsteps or the clunk of a door. The first act leaves a feeling of disorientation with plenty been filmed from the side, back or above.This only adds to the premise that someone or something is watching the unsuspecting characters but what or from where is left to the mystery. Unfortunately, this goes on for far too long and instead of being atmospheric it becomes drawn out and gave me a severe case of film deja vu. Every so often the unknown does creep up, breaking the silence and adding flashes of terror though. McCarthy uses a clever directing trick by not starting the scares too early but in truth these moments are way too few and far between to induce any real 'eyes behind hand' reactions.

The Pact seems to get stuck rather awkwardly between the horror and thriller genres and as a result doesn't seem to know what it is. It rolls out the cliches with abundance. I don't react to cheap thrills so flickering lights and spooky music are lost on me and I've seen the whole possession thing done to death (no pun intended). What seems like forever, the second act offers a glimpse of what could be there but offers nothing new. It goes up against scenes in such films as The Exorcist (1973) and The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) and in doing so falls very short. Another thing that happens around the half way mark is a rather massive plot hole and a reveal that I feel shouldn't be there. I don't doubt that there are people who will miss this but I didn't and it allowed me to unravel the rest of the film pretty quickly.

One thing I did like even though I have seen it before was the contrast between the inside of the childhood home and the outside scenes. Inside was dusky, dank and dark. It was lit by candle or lamp light and felt claustrophobic. The house felt old, vintage almost. Like an old coat with secrets of a previous owner, a story to tell. The outside was completely opposite. It was light and free. I would go so far as to say saturated and sometimes.. very beautiful. I like it when directors try to mirror emotions with surroundings and the house certainly had that air of uneasiness about it, Annie's apprehensions then were somewhat founded.

The third act and the lead up to the film's conclusion showed more promise.Well, it would of done if boredom hadn't have set in by this point. It had elements of classic horror that were unfortunately wasted due   to bad acting reactions. The massive build up made a scene that could have been terrifying loose all suspense and by the end of the film I just felt cheated. The 'twist' wasn't bad but I had figured it out long before I was shown it and I was left with so many loose ends that I ended up confused. It made me think at least, if only to figure out the relevance of said loose ends or why on earth it was called The Pact but all in all it's forgettable. 

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