The Pact (movie review). 7/10
James WF Roberts.
ARE YOU ALONE IN YOUR HOUSE…?
Two sister’s return to their home town to bury their dead mother.
What demons from their past must be resolved.
What horrors have re-awakened?
Chilling. Thrilling. Intense. Twisted and bloody captivating.
It’s very rare to see a good horror movie these days. And, it is a lot rarer to find a Horror movie that everyone agrees upon as being good. Vampire films are cheap and sordid, no real horror or fear, usually just sexy, and a good excuse to show young people exploring the darker sides of their sexuality, or their ultimate fantasies coming to life. Zombie films, which there must be dozens of being produced every year, werewolf films, there are amazingly few of, for the most part it seems that Horror films, in a lot of cases are just ways to exploit women and minorities. They are overly sexualized, overly violent, especially when it comes to women…there are no nuances anymore. No spine-tingling, unsettling moments that are hard not to just pass off as spectacle-for-spectacle sake.
This is why I enjoyed The Pact( 2012,Nicholas McCarthy); so much. As soon as you hear the words horror movie+the pact, first thing that goes through your mind is something Satanic. And surprize, surprize there is no pact with the prince of darkness in the film. Which, I thought made the film refreshing, and gave the film-maker more scope to play around with things. Rather than relying on an Excorist style film, which is still a masterpiece for a reason.
And, I must say that at times, especially the beginning of the film I thought it was going to go in a different direction than what it eventually moved to. Which I was wholeheartidly delighted by.
This is a hybrid film. That idea may make you cringe, but cross-over movies do seem to work well in the horror genre, unless it’s a 1940’s Warner Bros film like the the Three Stooges versus the Wolfman and Frankenstein…you think I’m kidding don’t you? Look it up! I am not going to go too much into the premise of the film as that would ruin the twist at the three-quarter mark of the film.
But, essentially two sisters who are estranged from one another renuite, so-to-speak, for the funeral of their mother. They both have demons. One of them is a former drug-addict and party-girl, and you don’t really get to know what the main character’s past is, but one gets the impression that it’s not pretty. They are both victims of abuse—but not sexual, or violence, which for a horror film, regarding one’s childhood, that is quite refreshing. The creepy ghost story aspect of the first act of the film does work, quite effectively.
Caity Lotz is the heroine of the film, and I like her performance. She under plays it most of the time. Which I think is a great realistic approach. She is stubborn but also a victim, she is a good tough chick whose been through the wringer of life. She is neither running around screaming at everything or going the full Ellen Ripley. (I wonder if I can start that a phrase, or if it will become a term for a pissed off woman with a purpose…I think we should start saying that…help me out here).
For some viewers, the middle, may get a little bit muddled, with some strands of plot and sub-plot not taken to a full comprehensive conclusion. However, I like that. It gives it an unsettling and lingering life in the back of your mind. Which is what a good horror story should entail. When a character needs to find pertinent information, however, at least she has the power of Google to compel her. But, that is also the world we live in today, if anything cinema should try to use a blend of new and traditional modes of character info-dumping.
Using the strange kid from her high school class, all grown up, who works as a spiritual medium and also google is what most of us would do if we think we are being visited from an unearthly entity. There are some great scares in this film.
Some very realistic jumps from both the characters and the audience. What I like the most is the fly on the wall sense of the film. This is not one of those handy-cam horror films that have been boring most of us over the last few years. The audience is lead by wanting to know more, just as the characters are. Which is what makes something horrific, in my view. The fear of the unknown.
There are enough clues throughout the movie, for the audience to try to work out things out. However, they are not used enough for us to see everything that is going on. And what the outcome will be. That is good story telling to me. Why watch somehting if you know how it’s going to end? Mind you some of the most disturbing and visceral hororr movies of the last ten years, a fellow Bendigo boy’s film, Wolf Creek comes to mind, as film that is almost cathartic. It’s a traumatic experience to watch and it’s intenstity doesn’t let go of you once Mick turns up.
Annie’s sister disappears….and I must say her talkingto her little girl on skype, or something like it, and her little girl, saying, “who’s that behind you mommy”, (sorry for the American spelling) is one of the best pieces of dialouge I have heard for a long time. It really sets everything up quite well.
Actor Casper Van Dien comes to Annie’s aid as the Homicide Detective, investigation the disappearance of Annie’s family members is a solid performer. And it’s good to see violence on male characters taking over, rather than always butchering a woman. What is the secret room they find behind the wall paper? Who is the crying man? Why is Annie being haunted by a strange dead woman who seemingly has no connection to her at all…at first.
Haley Hudson, plays the spiritual medium, Stevie very well. More and more we are seeing a trend now of spiritual mediums being played with a more authentic demeanour. If you have ever read accounts of mystics and oracles from the ancient or classical world you see how much the pyschological stran that is put unto the medium’s themselves. It is a curse, and Stevie’s partner, or is it her brother, that is not very clear, actually attacks Annie at one point for making Stevie go into the house…which she doesn’t remain in for long.
The is encounter adds a few of the movies eeriest moments really sending the chills for more creepy encounters. Stevie who is affected by the incident pretty hard herself later offers some advice to Annie in communicating with the spirited directly (yep here comes the bloody Ouija board). But, even that is given a rather novel and home-made approach…if I was the parent of teenage girls at the moment I would be looking at floorboards in the house with letters written down on them…just saying. This is also where we get to see a lot more of the background of the sister’s. Which is a good way of building up tenstion and more clues to the problem of the secret room…I know what you are thinking about a secret room and an abusive mother.
I think I have sold the movie enough without giving too much away. The ending may seem a little under-whelming, even a tad far-fetched but I often find that anything that is chilling and shocking and intense does end better when there are still many questions floating around that are deliberately not resolved. It makes the strange, the horrific and the creepy elements of this movie work well. It is a sort of realism, the truth of the mis-en-scene; the world in which the movie exists, that it doesn’t resovled everything. Some websites and newspaper articles have posed some questions whether or not the sisers are products of incest or the Pact suggests some sexual or demonic overturns, but I think it works as a metaphor within and of itself. A pact to find out the truth of one’s past. A pact to look after Annie’s neice and a pact to uncover a message from the grave. Some really creepy moments happen in this movie in the bedroom’s of the house. Watch for the crucifix and a few other jumps. The motorcycle that Annie rides throughout the film is also a great indicator, I thought of her estrangement from her small town, from her childhood. It gives her the air of independence that will no doubt be lost at the conclusion of the film.
I have mentioned a couple of times that this is a hybrid genre horror film. I am not going to mention how it is hybrid film as I fear that would give the whole game away. But without saying too much this a good chiller of a film. Something that is great to watch late night in your house, when you are all alone. A great way to get the blood pumping. Over all, 7 out of 10.
**Images courtesy of Internet Movie Database.