Pact, The (2012)
Directed by Nicholas McCarthy
"There is a deep love between a mother and her children."
Sundance fever has begun, and to start it off, we have Nicholas McCarthy’s first feature length film The Pact from Preferred Content Productions. After seeing the short film that inspired this feature length production at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, it was a treat to see this was going to be a feature in the Midnight category. Unfortunately not all great short films should be made into features, and that is certainly the case with The Pact.
The story starts with Nicole (Agnes Bruckner, Blood and Chocolate) and her ruffian younger sister, Annie (Caity Lotz, "Death Valley"), having a heated argument over the phone regarding the final preparations for and attendance at their mother’s funeral. Annie finally decides that although she hated her mother, she needs to be there for Nicole during this trying period and return to the place she hates the most ... home. Following the argument Nicole, with the aid of a hijacked internet connection, makes a video call to her daughter to say goodnight, only to be interrupted by a presence in the house.
The following day Annie arrives at the house, but Nicole is nowhere to be found; only her cell phone remains in a closet. This being commonplace for Nicole, there is little worry as to her whereabouts.
That night while sleeping in her childhood bed, Annie is awoken by noises in the house, pictures falling, and other items being tossed about, only to uncover a looming mystery about her mother that must be brought to light. With the assistance of a blind psychic high school friend, a police officer (Casper Van Dien) and an enraged spirit, Annie must solve this mystery and find her missing sister.
Caity Lotz gives a very strong performance throughout the entire runtime, and even Casper Van Dien does well in his supporting role, but it becomes evident halfway through the second act that his character is not even necessary. This becomes the largest overall problem: None of the supporting characters are really necessary to make this work effectively with the exception of the psychic helping Annie get what she needs to find her sister. This lack of necessity of the other characters does nothing more than create plot holes that cause the entire second half of the feature to lapse into tedium.
As usual, this being a ghost story, there are a few cheap jump scares and dark imagery that do set a nice undertone, but they are far from enough to save this block of Swiss cheese from the grater. All of the gore is at least done with practical effects, which was a relief, and there are some wire tossing effects that are to the point of hilarity, if not almost ludicrous in nature, such that I felt sorry for the stunt actress. But that’s what they get paid for.
It is a real shame that this flick falls apart around the 35-minute mark as it could have been so much better with a more direct approach rather than trying to shoot off in three different directions with the story, causing a lackluster presentation that left us all asking “why?”. It is definitely not all bad, and the flick is watchable, but it’s not one to waste gas on to see it on the big screen. McCarthy has a ways to go, but this movie is a relatively good start for him. Too bad he wasn’t in attendance because the audience sure wanted some insight when the screen went black.
2 1/2 out of 5