The Pact (2012)

Liz and Annie are tasked with the unenviable chore of clearing out their old family home after their mum has died. Still harbouring deeply upsetting memories of her childhood, Annie decides she wants nothing to do with it, leaving ex-addict Liz to deal with the work.

But when Liz starts experiencing some bizarre paranormal activity inside the house and then suddenly goes missing, Annie reluctantly returns to deal with the situation. The home, however, is far from welcoming and it’s apparent that ‘something’ else is there; a presence hell-bent on delivering a message which could blow her life apart.

Developed from a short film by writer / director Nicholas McCarthy, The Pact is a taut, smart little ghost story that is both terrifying and – unfortunately – very confusing. The first step to enjoying The Pact is to dutifully ignore the title. I went into it blind and expected some kind of ‘truth-or-dare teenagers in peril’ bollocks, but having watched the entire film I still have absolutely no idea why it was called The Pact. I can certainly guess, but that’d be pointless…

Titles aside, The Pact is an impressive feature debut from McCarthy, who delivers an old-school style ghost story rather than folding to modern trends and crapping out a ridiculous characterless scare-attraction à la Insidious. There are certainly scares here, but they’re subtle, infrequent and incredibly chilling. Some images will haunt you long after you’ve finished watching.

What makes The Pact really convince, however, is the performance of lead actress Caity Lotz, who plays loner Annie. She delivers an incredibly believable performance, with charm, smarts, gusto and an earthly grit you really see from lead actresses nowadays.

Unfortunately The Pact is far from perfect and the secondary characters get a short shrift, with Annie’s sister and their cousin feeling a little too similar, along with a pretty strange detective played affably-enough by Casper Van Dien. Whether intentional or not, Van Dien’s Detective Creek lacks credibility and seems needlessly suspicious.

This “is this intentional?” question can also be posed at the overall story, especially the ending, where it feels some key facts were missing, not filmed or ended up on the cutting room floor. It will leave most audiences with a dissatisfying lack of closure, which is such as shame considering the ‘reveals’ and ‘twist’ were otherwise genuinely surprising and very well constructed by McCarthy.

As a debut feature film Nicholas McCarthy should be bloody proud as The Pact is creepy, disturbing, thought-provoking and always watchable. McCarthy certainly lucked out with having Caity Lotz as his lead – she is superb throughout. Overall The Pact is definitely worth seeking out.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

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