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The Pact

2012 | 89 min | Unrated | 1.85:1

The Pact


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Theatrical release date

 06 July, 2012
 08 June, 2012

Country of origin

 United States



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The Pact


Screenshots from The Pact Blu-ray

The Pact Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, July 6, 2012

In the world of low-budget horror, it takes a special vision to rise above the frequently dreary competition. I’m not sure if “The Pact” has any extraordinary qualities, but as the genre goes, it’s competent, suspenseful, and mercifully focused. Credit writer/director Nicholas McCarthy (making his feature-length filmmaking debut), who plays smartly with known elements, creating a chiller that carries itself with confidence, despite a lack of budgetary might keeping the picture small in scale. Although it doesn’t win any points for originality, “The Pact” is a tense, smoothly paced fright experience, proving once again that a little effort goes a long way.

Annie (Caity Lotz) is a dispirited young woman burned by her dysfunctional family, unwilling to return home for her mother’s funeral. When she receives word that her troubled sister, Nicole (Agnes Bruckner), has disappeared without a trace, leaving her young daughter behind, Annie is forced to deal with the fallout, returning to her childhood home to clean up the mess. When a caretaker (Kathleen Rose Perkins) also ends up missing, Annie is made aware of a supernatural force in the home, a ghost that urges the visitor to follow clues to a malevolent presence that might be the source of the vanishings. With assistance from Detective Creek (Casper Van Dien) and Stevie (Haley Hudson), a clairvoyant acquaintance, Annie is ready to confront the dark, hoping to solve the mystery and rid the house of evil.

“The Pact” is far from perfect, opening with a flood of clunky exposition from the characters, who proceed to spill their life stories while talking casually on the phone. It’s a habit McCarthy has difficulty controlling, with most of the feature wedging explanations into the story, cramming backstory into dialogue belches between suspense sequences, making the picture feel forced when it comes to comprehending the position of the players in this haunting.

While “The Pact” makes an effort to put forth concerned humans in the screenplay, the movie is better in silent mode, studying Annie as she pieces together the ghostly clues left on her smartphone or deals directly with the violence of the house, soon tossed around by an unseen force, leaving the viewer to interpret these attacks as a warning or protection. The middle act of the feature is devoted to investigation, with Detective Creek brought in as a voice of reason, helping Annie probe her suspicions, though downplaying any phantom involvement. There’s also time spent with Stevie, a blind, gaunt woman who’s in direct contact with the spirit of the dwelling, pushing our heroine to a makeshift Ouija board to help answer her desperate questions. The specter conversation sequence is quite good, with McCarthy finding a little electricity to a corny concept, once again using stillness as a way to extract scares, which seems to be the most effective position for “The Pact” to conjure genuine tension.

In the lead role, Lotz carries herself with an appealing amount of anxiety, eager to play into the more physical aspects of the character while successfully communicating all of the necessary looks of terror and discovery. Van Dien also makes a positive impression with his brief role as a gruff but kind cop.

“The Pact” builds to expected revelations in the final act, climaxing with a satisfying stand of fear and brutality, adding a little blood to a movie that falls well below the standards for gore set by others in the genre. The final minutes of the picture are laughably bad, but fail to sour the overall viewing experience. Despite a crummy closer, McCarthy manages to keep “The Pact” moving along with purpose, staging a handful of satisfying chills with convincing visual effects and a concentration on mystery that’s enticing enough to pass. He’s working with limited resources, yet the director creates a satisfying ghost story without leaning too hard into trends. It’s not a deliciously overwhelming feature, but “The Pact” has modest vision worth a look.

Starring: Casper Van Dien, Agnes Bruckner, Caity Lotz
Director: Nicholas McCarthy

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