When thinking of recent horror movie sequels garnering minimal demand, The Pact II could be one of the most prominent examples. I don’t care much for Nicholas McCarthy’s original 2012 haunter, a film that only made waves throughout hardcore genre communities, but such an under-the-radar lifespan didn’t stop a sequel from being greenlit – without the involvement of Nicholas McCarthy himself. Placed in the hands of co-directors Dallas Richard Hallam (Entrance) and Patrick Horvath (Die-ner), the Judas Killer lives once again in The Pact II, a direct sequel that strikes an impressively similar tone to McCarthy’s chilling signature style. My problems with the first film never complained about scares, though, only convoluted storytelling that was more focused on atmosphere than comprehension. Do Hallam and Horvath learn from McCarthy’s weaker notes? Yes and no – but we’ll get to that shortly.
After the apparent death of the Judas Killer, a case that took years to solve and cost many lives, we meet June Abbott (Camilla Luddington), a crime-scene cleaner who starts to experience strange visions at night containing a shady figure. After investigating further into her murky past, she learns that her mother Jenny Glick was a victim of the Judas Killer, and with a copycat on the loose, she begins to fear her life is in danger. As her nightmares increase and people around her start dying, June reaches out to the person who supposedly ended Judas’ killing spree (Caity Lotz) in hopes that she can help solve whatever is plaguing her – fearing that the Judas Killer may have found a way to return.
Much like The Pact, The Pact II continues to be a hybrid paranormal spooker/crime drama that focuses on a serial killer named the “Judas Killer” – someone dealt with in much more detail thanks to McCarthy’s creation. I won’t get into the original backstory here, because you’ll need to see The Pact if you’re even thinking about venturing out for The Pact II, but Hallam and Horvath most certainly follow in McCarthy’s footsteps.
The same yellowish filter masks Judas’ attacks, dimly-lit scenes play around with shadows and morphed figures, and a stalking paranoia creates spine-tingling scenes of paranormal horror that will resurface any time you hear a floorboard creek or door crack. McCarthy has shown numerous times that atmospheric terrors are something he can easily accomplish, and this sequel’s dynamic duo pick up exactly where The Pact left off scare-wise.
Then again, in continuing Judas’ religiously psychotic story, The Pact II only blurs the lines between fantasy and reality even more than McCarthy’s original managed to accomplish. Entering realms of unforeseen killers, dreamscape visions and murky flashbacks/blackouts, it becomes difficult to decipher actual events from imaginary moments. In bringing Judas back, there’s a more forgivable abandonment of his lurking ways, but in the same breath, the story falls into a repetitive cycle of nightly visions and a violent awakening that usually means another dead body.
Everything is implied, from Judas’ existence to June’s visions, as we’re left to interpret how she’s able to see herself at crime scenes as they’re happening or how she can interact with Judas, and neither Hallam or Horvath lend any sort of helping hand. Once again we’re chilled to the bone, haunted by Judas’ gangly body and creeping tenancies, but his second incarnation boils down to nothing but nostalgic references, strangely convenient plot tendencies and a conscious ignorance that cares not to explain. The Pact II is the equivalent of your math teach writing a formula on the board without explaining a single damn step – either catch up or be left behind.
While the return of Caity Lotz may excite fans of the original, her inclusion isn’t very memorable or redemptive. She’s kind of the seasoned veteran who comes in and exclaims “I’m too old for this shit,” jumping back into the fray on a whim. Haley Hudson shows up, too, as the foggy-eyed mystic Stevie, but once again fans shouldn’t go crazy over her inclusion as she’s seemingly brought back to all-but confirm a third franchise film awaits.
Make no mistake about it, this is Camilla Luddington’s show to run and she plays the victim quite well. I absolutely love how she doesn’t constantly play a shrieking character who continually runs away, instead realistically mixing levels of obvious fear with the notion that certain moments are incomprehensible and almost too unbelievable to be scary. It’s a true emotion that many of us would feel – yes we’d be terrified, but are you truly a paranormal believer? Typical characters in such a situation would run far, far away, but Camilla holds her ground – and she does so with enough intensity that a genuine, likable respect builds.
Then again, the deeper we fall into The Pact II, the more Hallam and Horvath lose grip of what little story exists. It feels like there are large markers along the way – Judas’ form reappearing, Caity Lotz’s return, the climax – but all the filler material vaguely meanders, coming off as formulaic and purposely choppy. What’s even worse is there are some serious scares present, but the sequel material becomes entirely too forced. To put it simply, Hallam and Horvath attempt their best Nicholas McCarthy impression, and they hit the nail directly on the head – lackluster plotting and all.
I want to be nicer to The Pact II, but despite being shaken, rattled and rolled by Judas’ terrifying escapades, it’s nothing but a repeat performance that we’ve already seen before.