Essentially a dull TV movie, with a few half-decent haunted house scenes
The debut feature of writer/director Nicholas McCarthy, The Pact, is a disappointingly boring haunted house thriller with a real lack of thrills. Following Annie (Caity Lotz, also in her feature debut), as she attempts to unravel the mystery of her late mothers house after her sister goes missing whilst staying there, she gains help from a kindly detective (Casper Van Dien) and uncovers the surprising truth.
Taking a frightening if basic concept – things that go bump in the night – and spinning a mystery around it, The Pact could have been an effective if uninspired chiller, but as it happens is strangely dull. Lotz is fine in the lead, although it’s not a massively demanding part she manages to get the audience onside enough to suggest a bright future, and it’s good fun to see Van Dien, the forgotten man who dropped swiftly off the theatrical radar after Starship Troopers and Sleepy Hollow, pop up in a supporting role.
What unfolds is essentially a dull TV movie, with a few half-decent haunted house scenes to prop up the slow moving drama sections. A lot of long, uneventful sequences do nothing to keep the attention, with the film only coming to life during the traditional horror parts. McCarthy clearly knows his way around the genre, using space and some occasionally inventive camerawork to elevate these scenes way above the pedestrian bulk of the film. The problem here is that, in an already overpopulated genre which has the bar raised in the last year by Insidious and The Woman in Black (I film I personally didn’t rate, but has proven popular), The Pact is really just another voice in the crowd as far as this type of story goes.
One or two half-decent jumps get the film moving in the early stages, and a nicely handled rip-off of the medium/ exorcist scene from every haunted house film ever is worthy of some muted praise, but the whole experience is crippled by a confusing script – we’re never quite sure what the threat is, who the characters are or what exactly they are doing.
It’s a real shame that The Pact couldn’t have brought more to the table, but a decent lead turn and some flashes of invention from the director are cancelled out by a dull plot, which marks this out as a genre flick which is far more miss than hit.