Earlier in the year I was lucky enough to once again attend the Dead By Dawn horror movie festival here in Edinburgh. Short films were, as usual, a large part of the schedule and one of those short films was entitled The Pact and was written and directed by Nicholas McCarthy. When the short film was introduced we, the audience, were all told that it had already been developed into a feature and would soon be hitting cinema screens. Here is my coverage of the event, including my comments on The Pact. And here we are with the full length version.
While the short movie showed potential but little more I have to say that the feature version of The Pact nicely announces the arrival of McCarthy as an interesting and mature name to watch out for but also, rather frustratingly, still leaves plenty of room for improvement. Potential is fulfilled, to some degree, before even more is hinted at.
The plot starts off relatively simply: a woman must return home to put affairs in order after the death of her mother. She disappears and it’s then up to her reluctant sister Annie (Caity Lotz) to sort everything out. Annie has some resentment towards her deceased mother and starts to feel more and more uncomfortable as she spends more time in the home of her deceased mother with no communication from her sister. A local law enforcement officer (Casper Van Dien) isn’t too comfortable with the situation either. When things start to get very strange in the house, Annie decides to get some help from the officer and also from someone who claims to be able to communicate with spirits (Haley Hudson). There’s certainly something or someone from the past desperately trying to get some attention.
Mixing some fine jump scares with great atmosphere and just a little bit of gore, The Pact is an old-fashioned type of horror movie and all the better for it. Fans of The Gift will notice certain similarities but McCarthy also manages to take the well-worn elements and make them into something that feels very much of his own creation, a specific vision and style that he has worked hard to get onscreen.
The script isn’t too bad, for the most part, but it does much better in the first half than it does in the second half. This is mainly due to the fact that, sadly, the third act sees the really impressive supernatural elements give way for the more traditional thriller cliches. If you disliked the second half of Julia’s Eyes then you’re probably going to dislike the third act of this film. Not only do we get less scares and less impressive/oppressive atmosphere but there are also a number of irritatingly stupid decisions made by one of the lead characters.
Caity Lotz is very good in the role of Annie, tough and yet sensible enough to be terrified when things start escalating. Casper Van Dien is also very good in his relatively small role and I’ll stand up now and say that I’ve always thought of him as a decent actor (and a damn nice guy) often overlooked or unappreciated because of the films that he’s found himself in. Then we have Haley Hudson as the woman who can apparently see things that others can’t – she’s excellent and gives her all with a performance that somehow stops her character from slipping into the stereotype so easily recreated.
So, at the end of the day, we have a short movie that showed potential for much more being turned into a feature film that still shows potential for even greater things. That’s not to say that the movie is bad, because it’s not, and for his first time working on a feature movie it’s a bloody good show from McCarthy, who I look forward to seeing more from.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: NICHOLAS MCCARTHY
STARS: CAITY LOTZ, CASPER VAN DIEN, AGNES BRUCKNER, MARK STEGER, HALEY HUDSON, KATHLEEN ROSE PERKINS, SAM BALL
RUNTIME: 89 MINS APPROX