Title: The Pact
Director: Nicolas McCarthy
Starring: Caity Lotz (TV’s ‘Mad Men’), Casper Van Dien (‘Born to Ride,’ TV’s ‘Monk) and Haley Hudson (‘Marley and Me,’ ‘Freaky Friday’)
Manipulating imagery and using psychological antics to motive characters are some of the most frightening elements in the horror genre. Scribe and helmer Nicholas McCarthy, who made his feature film writing and directing debut with the new IFC Films horror mystery thriller ‘The Pact,’ successfully used those elements in his first movie. Instead of just focusing on psychical scares, the filmmaker also effectively implemented emotions and relationships to drive the plot forward.
‘The Pact’ follows the independent and strong-willed Annie (played by Caity Lotz) as she feels pressured to attend her mother’s funeral. Her sister, Nicole (portrayed by Agnes Bruckner), doesn’t feel the same sentiment towards their mother as Annie does, after the turbulent childhood they had living with her. After her continued insisting that Nicole also return to their childhood home to pay her final respects, Annie becomes worried when her sister fails to show up.
While trying to reach Nicole and stay in contact with her own daughter, who she left at home, Annie discovers that something’s wrong in her mother’s home. She begins to experience strange and mysterious happenings in her mother’s house, including the disappearance of her cousin, after she came to visit. Annie seeks the help of a local police officer, Creek (played by Casper Van Dien), and a former classmate, Stevie (portrayed by Haley Hudson), who can see and communicate with spirits, in order to find out what’s really happening in her mother’s house.
After being featured in recurring roles on such shows as ‘Mad Men’ and ‘Death Valley,’ Lotz was well-cast to portray the lead character in ‘The Pact,’ her theatrical feature film debut. The actress convincingly played Annie as being logical, but also domineering and always in control, when she first arrived at her mother’s house. Lotz also played Annie as though she truly wanted her sister to join her at their mother’s funeral so that they can both have closure in their relationships with her.
But once Annie starts experiencing unexplained, supernatural phenomenon, and begins uncovering the dark secrets her mother kept hidden, her mental and emotional states naturally begin deteriorating. Annie truly becomes tormented by the revelations of her mother’s actions, which are accelerated by Creek’s initial questioning and doubt of her claims. Creek’s suspicions of Annie’s assertions that she’s experiencing supernatural happenings keeps the story partially connected to reality, as many people have doubts about apparitions.
Another effective character in helping validate the supernatural elements of the story in ‘The Pact’ is Stevie. While only a supporting character, Hudson gives a chilling performance as the medium. Stevie appears emotionally disconnected from the people around her, but truly understands the motives of the ghosts she comes into contact with when she helps Annie in her mother’s home. Stevie offers helpful information to Annie that helps her start to process and understand what her mother was involved in when she was alive.
McCarthy effectively created believable stunts by including as many practical effects in camera as possible. The practical effects made the feeling that Annie was ominously and secretly being watched before she was physically attacked more genuine and frightening. Annie initially not knowing about what her mother did in the house also terrifyingly proves that evil can wait until people are most vulnerable to strike them.
McCarthy made a commendable effort in his feature film writing and directorial debut with ‘The Pact,’ as he created a strong-willed character in Annie who persevered in figuring out the secrets of her mother and her house. While she and Nicole didn’t have the best relationship with their mother, Annie proved she believed in redemption; she wanted to fix the mistakes her mother made, even if it put herself in danger. Combined with at times understand, but still effective special effects, ‘The Pact’ is a worthy debut by McCarthy. The horror fan also put the movie’s independent backing by IFC Films to good use by using realistic character development and frightening physical scares.
Written by: Karen Benardello