When you walk into a dark, musty old house with a bad cell signal, and you feel creeped out, would that be enough to make you stay the night elsewhere? Probably not. What if you were on video chat, and the person you're talking to asks, "Who is that behind you?", you turn around, and nobody's there. Would you leave then? Maybe, maybe not. What if you started to see apparitions? Found out there was a hidden room, riddled with peep-holes into your living areas? You find out there's an old serial-killer case connected with the dark, musty old house, and your sister disappears? Still not leaving?
I guess rent control is a mighty powerful motivator for Annie (Caity Lotz), a stubborn young woman who returns to the childhood homestead to attend the funeral of her mother, and to make some big decisions. There are lots of dumb decisions, as you may have ascertained from my opening statements. Yet, Annie remains sympathetic and pretty much no-nonsense (even when she consults a medium and draws a makeshift ouija board on the floorboards in the middle of the night!) thanks to some deft direction by Nicholas McCarthy (who also wrote the script).
While The Pact offers nothing new in the genre of ghostly horror/mysteries, and indeed retreads the recently worn out "family secrets haunting me" as run into the ground by the heroines in Silent House and Lovely Molly… I must admit, I liked it. For one thing, McCarthy knows how to extract the suspense (except when showing truth-seekers searching the internet… nobody's mastered that static set-up yet). He also knows the power of the visual image: using many angles, shooting deep into sets, exploiting the extreme close-up, and creating some arresting moments through a stylized dreamscape, The Pact is something to see.
When it comes to story and characters, they're basic. The pacing is glacial at times, then other moments are rushed. When it comes to horror, the supernatural angle juxtaposed with the murder mystery is reminiscent of The Sixth Sense; definitely PG-13 (or in this case, TV movie) level, but well-done nonetheless. Gore is at a minimum, but when shown, it's effective.
The Pact is a good one for a late night, home alone. (It's currently available through IFC Midnight On Demand.)
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson