PICKIN’ THE CARCASS: THE PACT (2012)
By Michael Arruda
Welcome to PICKIN’ THE CARCASS, that column where we scour the countryside looking for horror movie gems which, for one reason or other, we missed the first time around. Sadly, there’s usually a good reason we miss these flicks during their first run, but lately I’ve had some luck as I’ve caught films that I’ve actually enjoyed.
The subject of today’s column, THE PACT (2012) ,gets off to such a strong start and features such likable performances, I found myself forgiving all the problems its plot runs into later on.
THE PACT, now available on Streaming Video, opens with a young woman, Nichole (Agnes Bruckner), on the phone trying to convince her sister that she needs to return home to attend their mother’s funeral, but her sister says no, that she hasn’t forgiven their mother for all the awful things she did to them.
Nichole is alone in her deceased mom’s home, and shortly after hearing some strange noises and feeling an unseen presence behind her, she decides to Skype her young daughter who’s with a babysitter. In the middle of the conversation, her young daughter asks, “Mommy, who’s that standing behind you?” Yikes!
Nichole’s sister, Annie (Caity Lotz), changes her mind about skipping her mom’s funeral, and she arrives at her mom’s house to find that her sister has disappeared. Annie’s cousin, Liz (Kathleen Rose Perkins), had been babysitting Nichole’s young daughter, and after the funeral, they all stay overnight at Annie’s mom’s house while they try to figure out what happened to Nichole. That night, there are more eerie noises and strange going’s on, and Liz disappears.
Annie goes to the police, and since there is evidence of a struggle, she finds herself a suspect in both disappearances. A local police officer, Bill Creek (Casper Van Dien), takes an interest in her case and offers to help her. However, Annie suspects the real threat is a supernatural one, and so she turns to a medium, Stevie (Haley Hudson), who comes to the house with her assistant, Giles (Sam Ball).
Annie, Stevie, and Giles encounter more weird happenings inside the house and discover a secret room hidden behind the walls of the home. Stevie is able to shed some light on the entity inside the house and provides Annie with some important clues regarding the whereabouts of Nichole and Liz. But the biggest discovery comes later, when Annie realizes the threat against her and her family isn’t just a paranormal one.
There’s a lot to like about THE PACT, from its story, which is more than just a PARANORMAL ACTIVITY rehash, to its strong acting performances, to a bang up directorial effort by writer/director Nicholas McCarthy.
THE PACT contains a lot of cool scenes and provides some neat images, like the creepy man sobbing on the edge of a bed. There are some violent sequences as well, including a gruesome stabbing scene, and the gore looks real. There’s no CGI blood in sight.
The film opens in such spine-chilling fashion, the unsettling feeling it instills at the outset remained with me throughout. When Nichole finds herself alone in her mother’s house, the film resembles the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movies and does so again when the sinister force inside the house abducts Liz. But the fun part here is that there’s more to this story than just evil spirits. On the other hand, the details don’t always make sense, and this comes back to bite the film later.
The cast is excellent. Caity Lotz is terrific as Annie. She’s feisty, strong, and very sexy. She makes a formidable adversary for the threats which occupy her mom’s house. Casper Van Dien is also very good as Bill Creek, the police officer who helps Annie investigate her sister’s disappearance. Their scenes together are particularly enjoyable to watch as they share some nice onscreen chemistry.
Agnes Bruckner makes the most of her brief screen time as Nichole, and Kathleen Rose Perkins is also excellent as Annie’s cousin Liz.
But my favorite supporting performance belongs to Haley Hudson as the medium Stevie. The first time we meet her, she’s in this oddball household full of unceasing background noise, as TVs and rock music blare constantly. She’s quirky yet sincere, and so she comes off as very believable. And Sam Ball is nearly as good as Stevie’s friend and assistant Giles, who’s just as peculiar as she is.
And THE PACT packs some serious eye candy. Caity Lotz is striking and spends much of the movie in short shorts and sexy T-shirts. The other three actresses, Agnes Bruckner, Kathleen Rose Perkins, and Haley Hudson, are just as stunning.
And if you’re a female viewer, you’ve got Casper Van Dien and Sam Ball, two very good looking actors. This flick is very easy on the eyes.
I liked that the story aimed high and tried to be more than just your typical paranormal entity tale. It gets an A for effort. Where it falters is in the details.
For instance, at one point in the movie, the ghost physically attacks Annie, which I’m not sure ghosts can do, but this raises a question about the entire premise of the movie. If this ghost can physically attack human beings, then in light of what the film reveals later on, the question has to be asked, why didn’t the ghost simply tackle the other threat in the story on its own? Why did it need a human being’s help?
I also didn’t like the very ending of the movie. For it to make sense, one would have to surmise that there is yet another threat inside the house not revealed in the movie. I found this notion difficult to swallow. As it stands now, it plays like one of those endings where something creepy is added on simply to give the film an eerie conclusion, as opposed to a logical progression of the story.
Overall, once the movie starts putting the pieces of its puzzle together, it does so with too much obscurity, and so instead of sitting back and enjoying the ride, I found myself asking a lot of questions, which ultimately got in the way of my enjoying the movie. What really becomes of Nichole and Liz? You pretty much know, but you don’t really know. What does the “pact” from the title refer to? I can guess, but I’d rather know. Just how abusive was Annie’s and Nichole’s mother? What about that creepy hidden room in the middle of the house? How come no one ever noticed it before? And just how much did Annie’s mother know about what was going on inside her house?
I would have enjoyed the movie more if its second half provided clearer answers.
So, ultimately, the screenplay by director Nicholas McCarthy is a mixed bag. It provides a compelling story, but it doesn’t always make good on getting the details right. But it gets the scares right, and on that note, THE PACT delivers.
I give it two and a half knives.
© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda
Michael Arruda gives THE PACT ~ two and a half knives!