Director: Nicholas McCarthy
Cast: Caity Lotz, Agnes Bruckner, Casper Van Dien, Mark Steger, Haley Hudson, Kathleen Rose Perkins, Sam Ball, Dakota Bright
The Pact is a not-so-perfect but quite enjoyable horror flick that blends supernatural elements, serial killers and some good old-fashioned twisted family secrets. Not usually one for cheap jump scares, I have to say that Nicholas McCarthy used them in moderation, strategically placing them in all the right places. The pacing is nearly perfect for McCarthy’s feature-length debut, and some of the camera shots are really quite beautiful. One in particular that really struck me is a close up of the main character’s foot on the pedal of her motorcycle as she drives off. Sounds uninteresting but I suppose you must have an appreciation for the little things in order to see the beauty of it.
The movie opens up with Nicole, one of two sisters who are struggling through mixed emotions with the recent passing of their mother. Some fragile subjects are vaguely touched on in a phone call that occurs in the opening act between Nicole and her sister, Annie. From what little information we are given, it can be assumed that the sisters were horribly abused throughout their youth by their mother, locked in a closet (which is obvious by the frequent shots of the closet door) and therefore emotionally traumatized as a result.
Annie brings up Nicole’s past history of drug abuse and frowned-upon habit of running away when times get tough, and Nicole retorts with her pity story of having to raise a child on her own and take care of their mother’s funeral without help, etc. The phone call ends abruptly with Nicole not really knowing if Annie is going to make it to their mother’s house to help with the funeral arrangements. Nicole then contacts Liz, the sisters’ cousin who is taking care of Nicole’s young daughter while she is away, via a Skype-inspired communication program. Just as Liz wakes little Eva from her slumber for a quick ‘good night’ chat with her mom, the internet connection becomes sporadic, Eva makes a rather unsettling comment initiating the onset of terrifying events to come.
Next we are finally introduced to Annie, the bad ass hot blonde with an iceberg-sized chip on her shoulder, getting on her motorcycle as she is about to embark on the trek to meet up with her sister at their deceased mother’s house. She arrives to find the house empty. Nicole is nowhere to be found, but Annie sees nothing to be concerned about as she is used to her sister’s “split and run” method of dealing with life’s hardships. Days pass and strange occurrences plague Annie’s restless mind. She realizes that something isn’t quite right about the house, and we see more frequent close-ups of the closet and a wall with some sort of strange decal on it. A ghastly family secret hides somewhere within the structure of the house.
The scares, for the most part, are typical of this type of movie but structured around a captivating tale that successfully keeps the viewer engaged until the very end. Doors open and close by themselves, Annie’s iPhone GPS system lights up at random times depicting a location that presents clues to the unraveling of the family secret, and the girls attempt to fight off a mysterious ghost-like entity that throws them around the house in a rather hilarious fit of revenge or something like it that is never really addressed. The visuals in The Pact are aesthetically pleasing and reminiscent of J-Horror films such as Ringu and Ju-On. But what really makes all of it work is the story itself. Everyone has a skeleton or two hanging in the closet (maybe not so literally), and every family has a ‘black sheep’ and these reality-mirrored plot points are what The Pact is really about.
The acting is also above par for an independent horror/mystery and first time feature-length effort of Nicholas McCarthy who wrote and directed the film. Caity Lotz and Agnes Bruckner are superb as sisters “Annie” and “Nicole”. It’s unfortunate that they didn’t actually share any physical screen time, as their dynamic is that of actual real-life siblings. They even look like they could be related. They’re both stunningly gorgeous and believable as young ladies with troubled pasts. Speaking of gorgeous, Casper Van Dien stepped aside from his reputed career as a regular TV movie personality and the beloved “Johnny Rico” of Starship Troopers fame to snag the role of Detective Creek. There isn’t a whole lot to his character aside from his love of Dixie ice cream cups and his motivation to get to the bottom of Annie’s family mystery, so in that respect he does a decent job, but his performance is by no means mind-blowing or even up to par with that of Lotz and Bruckner.
Nicholas McCarthy has a genuine knack for telling a scary story and constructing it smoothly on-screen. The Pact definitely has its faults, primarily the lack of closure (which could be considered a good thing by some genre fans), and the fact that the pact itself is never really explained. There are some fairly silly moments that I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at, but there were times that I gasped and jumped out of my seat to counteract the LOL moments. Overall, a good story always wins my seal of approval, and this is one that I definitely enjoyed.