It’s a miracle I’m still even able to stay alone in my own home after exposing myself to numerous stories of haunted houses. I’ve seen it all from possessions, stalkers, killers, ghosts, zombies, boogie men – yet I keep pressing on. Nicholas McCarthy’s independent feature The Pact was my latest foray into a pastime that will undoubtably send me into a paranoid frenzy, finding another house of horrors and new victims to torment. I’ve still got plenty of reasons to fear the dark after watching McCarthy’s chilling thriller, but sadly I won’t be losing any extra sleep.
Now being an independent film, I have to give our novice director credit for establishing some skin crawling shots. Jolted by quick bursts of fear, McCarthy used all the same horror set ups where we knew an inevitable trap waited for unsuspecting characters. Uncovering a hidden room with zero lighting usually never turns out to be beneficial for protagonists, but skillful shot selection kept me hesitantly on my toes. In pitch black scenarios one always has a small anxiety for obnoxious jump scares, but more was said to the actual fear of not knowing. The Pact certainly does a fantastic job of keeping a big budget atmosphere for all to fear, even if the themes were never able to live up to such potential.
Since this is a review and I’d like to discuss certain story elements, please note that spoilers will follow from this point. You have been warned.
Where McCarthy lost me is in the abandonment of paranormal terror and realization of what you’re fearing is completely different. I was actually digging the ghostly detective work main character Annie (Caity Lotz) became obsessed with, but then our antagonist is introduced and plot points start to seem fishy. The whole idea of undead haunter Jennifer Glick sending warnings to Annie was so she could kill Glick’s murderer hiding beneath the house. There’s some banter about the killer being Annie’s mother’s unknown brother Charles, but that didn’t bother me so much as his involvement. From that point on, we lose any mystery and realize The Pact is nothing but another murder mystery.
During one of the hauntings, Jennifer has a rather aggressive episode with Annie that ends in her discovery of the killer’s secret room. Up to that point, we thought the evil being in the house would drag victims into the pitch black closet where they were never be seen again. Be it black hole or gateway to hell or something devious, people never returned from the closet. But while Annie is struggling with Jennifer’s ghost, she tries to drag our main character into the same closet of doom. Why would Jennifer even bother if all she was trying to do was point directly to the killer? Why waste time and scare the living crap out of the soul you picked to settle your own score? Left to believe the closet holds some dark secret, the landmark is kept in mind.
We’re then gifted with the disappointing realization our closet was only significant because the serial killer would tie his victims there while he made a snack or something, because you can never rush a good murder. No hidden secrets or big revelation, minus a severely stealthy man living downstairs. From square one I was strapped in for a gripping other worldly story, but McCarthy’s script becomes far too human to meet such creative expectations built solely by the movie itself.
In proper underwhelming fashion, The Pact leaves the biggest questions unanswered and ends on a painfully obvious cliffhanger. For one, how did no house inhabitant notice any of the large eye holes cut out in every single room for the killer to creep with? I’m not sure, but that would be my first reg flag while staying in a house alone by myself. Oh yeah, and how did Charles get out of the room initially? I may have missed something, but Annie had to break the wall down to find the room connected to his dungeon abode, no? Eh, Charles is evil, he used black magic, there’s a trap door – pick your excuse. Whatever.
Nicholas McCarthy admirably tries to deliver both a terrifying tale of horror by mixing a living killer into his story, but doesn’t explain much as to why. It’s a minimally fun discovery depicting some paranormal interactions, but a weaker third act stumbles instead of offering a meaty conclusion. I honestly would have been more satisfied keeping our villain in the deceased realm, staying with the teased ghost villain themes.
It’s a damn shame Annie could have solved this mystery with a quick trip to Ancestry.com, but I guess it’s a way cooler story having a ghost help you uncover your family’s shameful secret.