The Pact begins much the same as many haunted house films fraught with family secrets: the matriarch of the family is dead and the younger generation, now scattered to the four winds, must return home to bury their dead and face the echoes of their shared past.
Annie (Caty Loitz) does not want to return to her mother’s house. The stereotypical damaged little girl, rough around the edges and riding around on a motorcycle to press the image, continually refuses to head back for dear old mom’s funeral, even as her sister Nichole (Agnes Bruckner) begs. It is only when Nichole disappears under mysterious circumstances, leaving her young daughter in the care of a cousin, that Annie makes her way home to face the demons from her past (as well as a few new ones) and solve the mystery of her missing sister, all the while dealing with a frightening presence skulking in the shadows of her family home.
There are so many problems with this film, I don’t even know where to begin. It may be startling for some to see Caity Loitz, our favorite badass Buffy send-up cop from Death Valley, playing the whimpering damsel in distress – and playing it poorly. Loitz’s subtlety and skill as an actress seem to have completely dissipated, leaving an overacting mess in its wake.
Most performances in the film are similarly lukewarm, save Haley Hudson’s dramatic turn as medium Stevie, who is approached by former high school tormentor Annie to help solve the mysterious happenings at her mother’s home. Hudson’s startlingly thin and gaunt appearance, when coupled with her intriguing portrayal as the barely lucid Stevie, make her the only real standout in terms performance, with noted B-actor and reality tv star Casper Van Dien phoning in a performance as the needlessly dull and gruff-voiced local policeman, Creek.
The plot holes are so plentiful that it’s damn near shocking that any cohesive storyline could be found at all. Even the film’s ‘surprise’ villain raises more questions than answers, most notably how the strange and creepy happenings at the family home went seemingly unnoticed for the years that the heroine and her sister, you know, LIVED there.
[Spoilers to Follow]
There are just certain things even a child would notice about their home, including the negative space taken up by a ‘hidden’ room that included a boarded-up window, as well as peepholes drilled in every single wall of said hidden room. Beyond that, when it becomes clear that the occupant of the hidden room had an escape route into the house, it seems ludicrous that in the admitted sixteen years heroine Annie spent living there, she never bumped into the man, or that her mother never realized, ‘Hey, that guy I boarded up in the spare bedroom doesn’t seem to have died, even though I haven’t fed him in six months’.
Even the introduction of the spirit haunting the house makes little sense; when it is revealed that said spirit is simply seeking the heroine’s help and is powerful enough to pick people up and toss them around like ragdolls, it leads viewers to wonder why this supposedly friendly ghost terrorized poor Annie but never stepped in to save the film’s three casualties, or even to exact revenge on the man causing them. It boggles the mind.
Along with expected horror film scenes of pretty girls running in skimpy clothing (and even starting a motorcycle in her unmentionables, while an onlooking child comments mildly that she needs a helmet), viewers also get an eyeful of the director’s foot fetish, with slow-motion shots and close-ups of women’s feet included in the film for no apparent narrative reason.
In short, The Pact is a waste of time. The film’s conflict is barely explained with a poor riffing on the true to life Zodiac serial killer (here called Judas, a biblical reference that comes to no fruition whatsoever), with the title ‘pact’ itself never coming in to play and exposition scenes placing the characters into unlikely and awkward situations – like randomly eating Dixie cup ice cream off wooden spoons, in a police station, in the middle of the night. The only point in sitting through this dreck is to see the almost unbelievable stupidity.
It should be noted, however, that The Pact is director Nicholas McCarthy’s first full-length film, based on a short of his own design with the same title, which starred Firefly alum Jewel Staite. While I was unable to find the short for comparison purposes, the full-length film’s inability to sustain a compelling or sensical plot leads one to wonder if the story hadn’t been better left in its short film format.
The Pact (2012)
Stars: Casper Van Dien, Caty Loitz, Agnes Bruckner, Haley Hudson
Director: Nicholas McCarthy
Writer: Nicholas McCarthy