Complete A-Z list

Pact, The


Stars: Caity Lotz, Casper Van Dien, Agnes Bruckner, Mark Steger, Haley Hudson, Kathleen Rose Perkins, Sam Ball, Anjini Taneja Azhar, Bo Barrett, Dakota Bright, Rachael Kahne

Director: Nicholas McCarthy

Director McCarthy works hard to deliver the requisite chills and thrills that all ghost stories need to please horrorflick fans, but he is let down time and again by a not-very-good screenplay that almost always fails to scare where it should. Sadly, despite his efforts, the hairs on the back of my neck remained resolutely unraised.

Unfortunately, McCarthy, as writer as well, largely has only himself to blame for the shortcomings of his debut feature.

Says McCarthy of his screenplay, extended from his previous short film screened at Sundance. “The short wasn’t originally made as a teaser or trailer for a larger film, but it did come from some ideas I had been thinking about that might well work inside a feature … with the movie becoming scarier and scarier the more we discover”.

That’s his opinion, of course, and he’s entitled to it. But, despite heavy breathing on the soundtrack, significant close-ups that turned out not to be all that significant and obvious religious iconography, I never really became involved with the plight of Caity Lotz who reluctantly returns to her (unhappy) childhood home in San Pedro after her mother dies. Her sister has inexplicably vanished, along with her cousin and, in opening up the house, she finds a room she doesn’t remember – and then finds she is not alone…

McCarthy creates an underwhelming atmosphere of foreboding which ends up being diluted by the none-too-shocking climax taking far too long to turn up. You can only wait so long for the inevitable (and in this case, flaccid) would-be Carrie shock ending.

The most effective aspect of the film is that the house is not your standard dark ghost story setting but a rather unattractive modern tract house and there’s something unsettling (as there so often is) by McCarthy’s use of the song ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’ in so clearly an unsettling setting.

Lotz, burdened with a feeble script, suffers as well as she can, Casper Van Dien, playing a gruff cop, turns up to help her but she never really receives the help she does need – a good script and direction to match.

Alan Frank

USA 2012. UK Distributor: Entertainment-One . Colour.
89 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 05 Jun 2012