Sunday, August 26, 2012

Review: THE PACT

The Pact
Directed by Nicholas McCarthy

It's very hard to make an effective independent, low-budget horror film. If you don't believe me, go hop on Netflix and scroll through the horror movies on instant watch. Go ahead, I'll wait.

Back? Yeah, they're pretty much all terrible.

So whenever a good independent horror film comes along, it's like a breath of fresh air. The Pact is such a film.

The Pact is the story of two sisters, Nichole (Agnes Bruckner) and Annie (Caity Lotz). The sisters have had a less-than-perfect relationship with their mother--a fact that's highlighted when we learn their mother used to lock them in a closet when they were "bad."

Their mother has recently died, and Nichole is at their childhood home, trying to get affairs in order and to attend the funeral. Annie wants no part of any of this. She still hates her mother, and has no intention of returning home.

This all changes when Nichole seemingly vanishes. Liz (Kathleen Rose Perkins), who is the sister's cousin, is watching Nichole's young daughter--and when she doesn't hear from Nichole for three days, she frantically calls Annie. Annie isn't very worried at first. Nichole has a history of drug abuse, and Annie suspects that Nichole has just run off, unable to deal with what's going on.

Things only get worse, though. One night, after the funeral, Liz also disappears from the house, and Annie is attacked and flung around by some unseen force. Is the house haunted? If so, by who? And just what happened to Liz and Nichole?

The Pact is as much of a mystery/thriller as it is a horror film. Writer/Director Nicholas McCarthy perfectly blends genres, switching deftly between a detective story, serial killer story and a spooky haunted house flick. The special effects in the film are subtle, which makes them all the more effective.

At one point there's a very interesting/different approach to the "bringing a psychic into the haunted house" trope. Haley Hudson plays Stevie, a blind girl Annie knows from high school. Stevie lives in a house full of apparent drug addicts/dealers, who are constantly blasting heavy metal music and playing video games. She also just happens to posses the ability to communicate with the dead. Stevie and Giles (Sam Ball), who is apparently her handler, and a real prick to boot, show up at Annie's house, with creeptastic results. I've seen a million horror movies that use this plot point--bringing in someone to commune with the spirits--but Hudson's haunting performances, and the way Giles abusively protects her, makes it seem fresh and exciting here.

There's a lot more than meets to eye in The Pact. To go into it would spoil the fun. I literally knew nothing about the film when I sat down and watched it, so when the plot twists began to pop up, I was pleasantly surprised.

Right now, playing in theaters, is a dreadful looking film called The Apparition. It has 0 % on Rotten Tomatoes and is, by all accounts, awful. Yet that film will be more well-known than The Pact, which is a damn shame.

The Pact is suspenseful, scary and effective. McCarthy has a real eye for composing and framing his shots, and Caity Lotz, as Annie, brings a layered and thoughtful performance to the film; she's not just some dingbat final girl, making dumb decisions and just asking to get killed.

The Pact is currently available on Amazon as a "theatrical rental." For 6.99, it's cheaper than going to the actual movies, and it's more than worth it.

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