Creating a truly scary movie by today’s cinema going standards is no easy feat. Setting aside the cheap thrill tactics of simply having silence and followed by an invasively large sound, it becomes more and more difficult to scare audiences, especially since we have been treated over the last decade years with some genuine examples of pure onscreen terror.
The Pact, sporting a modest budget and an array of fairly unheard of actors – save for Casper Van D (or Jonny Rico as most will know him as), attempts to merger the old and new schools of horror to some success.
The story begins as two sisters argue over their duty to clear out their abusive mother’s house following her death. When one sister disappears (followed by the baby sitter the following night) the other sister reluctantly spends the night in the house assuming they have just run off. How wrong she was! And following a scene ripped straight out of ‘The Entity’ she begins to realise that she should have just stayed away. Hiring the aforementioned Casper Van, an open minded detective, the two try to unravel the houses bizarre and brutal history.
As with many haunted house plots, to say anymore would simply ruin the rather satisfying plot twists, but rest assured, as simple as it is, and whilst the cynical minded may find some rather gaping plot holes, ‘The Pact’ manages to we’ve a nice little story which, in many aspects, is actually more impressive in reflection than I thought it to be at the time. The plot develops quite slowly, a little too slowly to begin with, as some crumby acting and very limited dialogue threatening to put the brakes on the movie before it even gets going. Thankfully, after a couple of cliché scenes the pace picks up as the story begins to develop at a more respectable pace. Naturally the movie is quite slow moving anyhow to allow a good deal of atmosphere to develop throughout the movies run time but it’s far from boring. Whilst I felt the characters remained oddly bland, the attention to detail in other aspects of the movie, namely in the set design and plot twists, are where the movies greatest strengths lie. Despite being set in a rather bland and ordinary house (as opposed to the standard big spooky manor house we are used to being haunted) there are so many little touches which make the ordinary seem unsettling and through the twist of the movie, will have you checking your own house for inconsistencies!
To say ‘The Pact’ was terrifying would be a bit of an exaggeration, however it certainly has more than its fair share of spine tingling moments and jumpy scares. Whilst the jumpy scares more than served their purpose, it was a shame to see so many of them borrowed from other movies, particularly Asian ghost movies such as ‘shutter’, especially when you consider the most effective set pieces were those unique to this movie. Character movements and effective use of shadows show a clear vision for how the director wanted this movie to look. Combine subtle scare effects with some minimalistic music and scenes which have the confidence to hold the tension and you get those moments we all crave in horror, genuine scares!
To dissect this movie into different aspects as I have done here is really doing it a little disservice. It’s true that when analysed there are flaws to be found in almost every aspect, however, taken as a whole, it is a true diamond in the rough. It’s got a story which sets it aside from most and some scares which are up there with the best of them. It won’t be for everyone, it’s clearly a low budget affair and it’s got a bit of a wobbly start, but for those willing to persevere, I think you will be rewarded.