Horror films can sometimes be crap – and in some ways that’s almost part of their charm – but they should never, ever be boring. Unfortunately that is a charge I’m going to have to level at The Pact, Hollywood’s latest foray into supernatural horror. Or is it a thriller? One of its biggest problems is the fact that it doesn’t seem to be able to decide which it wants to be. While some films manage to blur the line between the two, The Pact alternates between them while ultimately failing to satisfy the criteria of both.
The film tells the story of Annie (Caity Lotz), a woman drawn back to the family home following the disappearance of her sister, Nicole. After her cousin Liz also disappears in the house following an evening of disturbing events, Annie feels compelled to find out exactly what happened. Enlisting the help of both the local cop (Caspar Van Dien, trying his best to pull off the gruff small town police officer) and an old high school acquaintance who happens to be psychic, Annie puts her detective hat on. Will she encounter ghoulies or ghosties? Or will she get drawn into a serial killer mystery? According to director/writer, Nicholas McCarthy, she can do both.
This is one of The Pact’s biggest failures – it can’t make up its mind what it is. It flirts with the idea of an over-religious movie (*cough* Carrie *cough*) and hints at a past of child abuse at the hands of the mother, but never fully explores either of these themes. If this is intended as misdirection on the part of the director, it fails spectacularly because the lack of answers is too distracting. Its set up as a supernatural film begins well, and there are a handful of neat moments scattered throughout the film (including the use of ‘Sheridan’ and ‘La Fanu’ as two of Nicole’s online contacts – Sheridan Le Fanu being famous for writing ghost stories), but they don’t work when tied into the serial killer plotline – indeed, the film totally forgets about the supernatural aspects at key points in the film, which just adds to a long line of plot inconsistencies (I’m confused as to why a photograph of a woman who died in 1989 would be used as a location photo on Google Maps).
Most of the plot revolves around Annie’s investigation of a secret buried within the house, and following in a long line of supernatural films, she must uncover a family secret. The Goblin-esque soundtrack that accompanies her investigation and the discovery of a hidden room associated with the past sins of the mother simply brought to mind Profondo Rosso – and if I’m honest, I’d rather just watch an Argento giallo. Much is made of new technology, and I was heartened to see that her usage of Google didn’t see the most useful web link appear at the top of her search results. She actually had to scroll down!
If I’m honest, it’s not all bad. The poster is rather interesting (although I’d dispute the bold claims about it being ‘scary’) and the set design adds a strong atmosphere of claustrophobia. There are some neat little touches scattered throughout the film, and the climactic sequence is really rather good – it’s just a pity that the rest of the film wastes this potential through its inconsistencies, and its inability to decide if it wants to investigate serial killers, or go ghost hunting. I would like to see another film from this director, but I’d hope that for his next effort, he a) gets someone to comb his script looking for plot holes and b) picks a genre and sticks to it.