Things of an unexplainable nature go bump in the night in this effective little US chiller which proves there’s still mileage left in the haunted house set-up without resorting to using the found footage or single-take machinations.
Nicole, the eldest daughter of a recently deceased woman, moves back into the family home whilst making arrangements for her estranged mother’s funeral. Tempted into a closet upstairs one evening after hearing noises from within it, she appears, inexplicably, to go missing somewhere within the house.
The following day, her younger sister Annie (Caity Lotz) arrives with both her cousin and Nicole’s young daughter to find the house empty and with no trace of her sister. That night, the girl’s cousin also disappears under mysterious circumstances. Determined to unearth what is happening in her childhood home, Annie is attacked by an invisible entity. That isn’t the only presence she feels in the house either, as she witnesses the figure of an old, scrawny gentleman perched on a bed upstarts. Is he a figment of her imagination or is there something far worse at play?
For what is obviously a low-budget affair, the makers of The Pact are able to establish a credible and creepy foreboding tone throughout. Director Nicholas McCarthy manages to draws out some extremely tense moments in what are pretty compact surroundings. The house itself becomes a character within the film, and the darkly claustrophobic setting is a testament to some effective art direction. The mood is further enhanced by a strong central performance by relative newcomer Lotz.
Even the arrival of Starship Trooper Casper ‘The Chin’ Van Diem midway through (as a jaded detective sympathetic to Annie’s wild claims) isn’t enough unbalance the film, and he actually gives a decent performance. Props must also go to a unique-looking actress by the name of Haley Hudson who plays the Goth-like psychic who Annie turns to for advice. She looks like how you might imagine The Ring’s Samara would appear if she got her hands on a hair slide and some conditioner.
The film’s old-fashioned fright tactics are a refreshing change to the CG overkill increasingly becoming synonymous with the genre, and the end sequence is a fantastic exercise in slow, almost unbearable tension.
One criticism however (which seems to be at the heart of these types of film) is why don’t the characters immediately reach for the best light source in the house when investigating a potential paranormal occurrence? Or failing that, at least put in a narrative device where the electricity weakens during each mysterious, otherworldly incident.
While The Pact will almost certainly find the bulk of its audience via the small screen streaming/rental route (given its scale, it certainly fulfils those traditional night-time sofa scares) the film more than adequately provides a decent 90 minutes of unsettling entertainment for cinemagoers looking for a respite to the big-budget bombast around at the moment.