Review: The Pact (Blu-ray)

2012/11/26 16:40:31 +00:00 | Monte Yazzie

Ghost stories are always better, and scarier, the longer motivations remain a mystery. In an occasionally jarring, though pivotal moment, the covers are removed from our eyes and everything we’ve waited for is revealed. The reveal of a building narrative in an apparition film is a difficult performance and can either undermine everything that came before it or excel the movie to the catalog of the horror elite.

With The Pact, director Nicholas McCarthy crafts two impressive, tension filled acts of legitimate scares before unfortunately succumbing to the pressure of the ominous third act.

The film is based on a short film directed by McCarthy and follows a far-flung family returning to their childhood home to attend their mother’s funeral. The film begins with a great introduction. Nichole (Agnes Bruckner) is talking to her daughter on a webcam in her recently deceased mother’s house. On her walk throughout the maze-like home looking for a better web signal, the house introduces itself. This predictable, time tried setup is ingenious and well executed, exploiting technology and traditional aspects of ghost storytelling with updating promise.

McCarthy understands the subtleties associated with the conventional facets of specter tales. For instance, sharp horror fans can spot a jump scare coming a mile away, but McCarthy is keen to bluff this feature. There are lingering dark corners and lighting effects that are ideal implementations for this story. The house is especially well designed; religious articles and accommodating antiquities scatter the walls with down-to-earth charm. The treatment of technology to aid the genre components is fittingly conceived. Everything from Google Street View to iPhone GPS is employed to update the supporting factors for the frights.

The acting excels some of the trite back and fourth dialogue. The film is anchored by the accomplished performance of Caity Lotz. Her character, Annie, is investigating the past of the house she grew up in and Lotz embodies a natural confidence and slight vulnerability that allows her performance to shine. It also helps that she is a trained dancer and martial artist, because the physicality of the role has her thrown and falling quite often. Casper Van Dien also makes a welcome and different appearance as a graying detective helping Annie.

The film offers a fine setup and completes the difficult transition into the bulk of the second act. However, once the mystery begins to unravel and questions start having answers, the film collapses under its’ own exceptional introductory weight. The endless possibilities of what’s lurking in the dark are far scarier than the actual reveal.

The Pact is nicely transferred on Blu-ray and offers great depth of contrast to highlight the varying levels of gray and black within the dreary settings. The DTS-HD 5.1 soundtrack could have highlighted a little more of the atmosphere of the house and the noises within. The extras aren’t plentiful; in fact, beyond the trailer, there is only a 15-minute “making of” feature that offers some nice behind the scenes footage.

The Pact presents a great build-up with more than a few genuine scares. It’s a clever traditional horror film that develops contemporary adjustments to offer a novel twist on the tried genre vehicle. Unfortunately, once the mask is taken off, the trappings of the third act overwhelm an otherwise anticipated conclusion. Still, horror fans should give this film a chance; it achieves in two acts what most big budget productions could only wish for.

Film Score: 3.5/5 Disc Score: 3/5