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General Musings, Reviews

The Pact Review

‘The Pact’ is the first full length feature to be directed by Nicolas McCarthy, based on a short film he also directed, and stars Caity Lotz (Death Valley) and Casper Van Dien (Starship Troopers). The film follows Annie (Lotz) as she investigates the disappearance of her sister after she visited their childhood home in the wake of their mothers passing. After investigating the house and spending the night mysterious noises and object movements occur making Annie realise there is a unknown force present in the house. Determined to get to the bottom of what is happening at her childhood home and where her sister has disappeared Annie begins an investigation into the secrets the house holds as well as her past. So does a full length adaptation of a short film cut it? Read on….

As a horror fan once the credits began to roll on ‘The Pact’ I left feeling very happy with what I had just watched. Now I guess not all horror films are supposed to make you leave the auditorium feeling happy but it was a bi-product of the film because of the overall simplicity of ‘The Pact’. Now when I use the term simplicity I am not attempting to derive negative connotations but use it as a positive of the film. At its core ‘The Pact’ is a low budget horror film with a minimal cast attempting to sell a scary and compelling story and it is the simple nature of all those elements that makes the film work really well. This results in a quality low key horror release that horror fans and your casual film fans will enjoy. 
Caity Lotz as Annie…with a knife
What is really good about ‘The Pact’ is that it stays away from what a significant amount of smaller horror films attempt to do, and that is to be more than it actually is. A major problem with smaller horror films is that because of their smaller budgets those involved feel like they have to go all out with gore and scares which negates from the story as well as the overall quality if the film. However when it comes to ‘The Pact’ there are no attempts to try and get recognised, it keeps the story levelled out and interesting, does not reveal too much of what is going on and it consists steady realistic performances by the main characters. When all of this accumulates you have a finely tuned film that compliments the overall product and it works very well for ‘The Pact’. 
One of the most favourable aspects of the film is the story, though it lacks depth and character back story from the outset, it does release bits of information through dream sequences and dialogue gradually through the film which helps flesh out characters and the motives. Despite this, there are elements of the film which have been seen before in the supernatural genre but attempts are made to keep it fresh and unlike what has been seen before, which works for the most part. There will be no escaping that it is a relatively simple story and that spooky events do not come thick and fast like in a film such as ‘Insidious’, but in its place is a building of tension and fear through claustrophobia inducing surroundings. The house in which the majority of the film takes place is small, it has few rooms, narrow corridors and tight spaces which makes for great tracking shots in exploring the house, not knowing what is round the corner. Speaking of the house, its aesthetics are great, it has a genuine creepy feel to it and looks like your grandmas house that has not been decorated since the 70s/80s. It is a look not often used in haunted house films as most tend to stay modern or use gothic imagery to create a spooky atmosphere. 
Save money on buying a ouija board by…..writing one on your wooden floor
The acting in the film is good remaining consistent throughout, Caity Lotz will be garnering a bit more attention after her role in the film with a strong lead and hopefully Casper Van Dien will re-emerge from the realm of TV films with a decent turn here. The score for the film on the other hand is more of a mixed bag, the problem being that it mixes between high pitched string work similar to that from ‘Insidious’ and low, slow brooding bass sounds during slower tension building scenes. The switching back and forth is a little strange and can be annoying at time as it feels like those behind it did not know which would work best for scares and tension building so they slung them together. There are times in the film when the score works really well and matches the nature of the film but then will be thrown off by using a completely different style of sound. They may have aimed for the unsettling but it did not come off well. 
If there is a major problem with the film then it has to be a lack of scares as they are few and far between. The film opens well in this area but at times takes too long in developing the minimalistic story and setting up events to come which results in any fear evoking emotion settling down. In the final act when events begin to peak and scary scenes are strung together it works really well and manages to push you towards the end of your seat, its just not enough to have you in total fear. However overall ‘The Pact’ can not be faulted for what it is, a low key supernatural horror film that works well, it does not pack the punch of some other supernatural horrors but that is because it played it safe and played it well. Instead of trying to grab your attention through ridiculous events or scares it opts for a slower and more guided approach which is unusual for a film in this genre, and I thoroughly enjoyed the change of pace. Some may have issues with a perceived lack of scares but this is a little more and better than your average supernatural horror, but as it plays it low key there few points at which scares or fear hit heights which other films in this genre have achieved. The Snooty Usher approves. 

About Snooty Usher Dan

Favourite Film: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) Worst Film: The Hills Have Eyes 2 (2007) Guilty Pleasure: Step Up 2: The Streets (The dancing is awesome ok.....)


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