The Pact is the feature film debut of writer/director Nicholas McCarthy based on his successful short film of the same name, which premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. The Pact tells the story of a young woman named Annie (Caity Lotz) who comes home to investigate the disappearance of her missing sister Nicole, who was last seen skyping her daughter from her house. The film takes a turn from the typical ghost story soon into the movie when Annie realizes that the house is haunted. Instead of spending the rest of the film inside the house however, Annie escapes, only to be brought back by Officer Creek (played by Casper Van Dien) and again by an old classmate who speaks to spirits.
Caity Lotz (who you may recognize as Don Drapers niece in Mad Men) gives a good enough performance but nothing about her character separates her from the thousands of other female horror leads. Caity showed a lot of talent in Mad Men for the few episodes she appeared in but in The Pact she’s just another horror movie actress. It is nice to see Casper Van Dien back in another movie that wasn’t direct to video, partly because he plays a character you wouldn’t normally see him play .
While the cast do a fine enough job in the film, it’s McCarthy’s direction and Bridger Nielson’s cinematography that are the real stand-outs of the film. I enjoyed seeing a film made with independent sensibilities and a relatively low budget using a more traditional approach to the visual aspect of the film. The film doesn’t rely on pretending to be a found footage film or cheesy digital effects to create its ominous atmosphere.
The story is unfortunately the biggest weakness of the film and I felt like there were quite a few questions that the film never answered. There are enough twists to keep you guessing until the end, but the final twist, while an original idea, is a bit underwhelming and doesn’t make much sense if you think about it too much.
The Pact is not a film for everyone and is a slow burner that never quite explodes like I hoped it would, but is still a very enjoyable low budget horror movie. It’s a strong first feature for McCarthy who shows a lot of promise, and I will be very interested to see what he makes in the future.
The Pact screens this Saturday, July 7, as part of the Awesome Fest‘s summer Race Street Pier-based screening series.